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

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.

Tiny Baubles

As many as 51 trillion particles of discarded plastic lie on the ocean floor, threatening marine life globally.

Landfill Eulogy

Sweden’s waste-to-energy plants are so efficient that it has closed many landfills and actually imports trash to burn from other European countries.

Humpback Holler

Humpback whales that leap out of the water are making a big splash to communicate with distant pods, Australian researchers have found.

Window Pain

As many as one billion migrating birds die annually when they collide with glass windows in the United States.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags