Seabirds’ Significance

Complex Interactions Help Cool the Planet




Top predator species of the Southern Ocean, far-ranging seabirds, are tied to the health of the ecosystem and to global climate regulation through a mutual relationship with phytoplankton, according to a study from the University of California-Davis, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

When phytoplankton are eaten by grazing crustaceans called krill, they release a chemical signal that attracts krill-eating birds. The chemical signal, dimethyl sulfide (DMS), forms sulfur compounds in the atmosphere that also promote cloud formation and help cool the planet.

Seabirds consuming the krill then fertilize the phytoplankton with iron, which is scarce in oceans. “The data is really striking,” says Gabrielle Nevitt, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology, physiology and behavior at the university, who co-authored the paper. “This suggests that top marine predators are important in climate regulation, although they are mostly left out of climate models. More attention should be focused on how ecological systems impact climate. Studying DMS as a signal molecule makes the connection.”


Source: Environmental News Network (enn.com)

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Renewable Payoff

For a few hours last May, Germany’s renewable mix of energy generated so much power that customers were actually paid for using electricity.

Sealife Sanctuary

Greenpeace is working with the European Union and Germany to set aside an Antarctic sanctuary of almost three-quarters of a million square miles to protect whales, penguins and other wildlife.

Plumbing Progress

An innovative Australian project recycles discarded ocean plastic into 3-D printer filament, which is then used to make replacement plumbing parts in needy areas of the world.

Urban Trees

Tree cover works to reduce depression, improve productivity and lessen disease, yet four million city trees a year are being lost due to their low priority in municipal budgets.

Tree Tally

By digitalizing photographs and other museum records, scientists are closing in on the number of tree species left to be discovered in the Amazon rainforest.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags