What Are Phytoplankton Crops?
Phytoplankton are plankton that consist of plants, such as algae. Many species of these microscopic plants live in the ocean, each having a characteristic shape. Phytoplankton grow in abundance in water bodies all around the world. Phytoplankton are the basis of marine food chain and can change global climate. The vast majority of marine fish and mammals depend on phytoplankton for food. So, a downturn in phytoplankton survival can be a good indicator of change in marine environment. Phytoplankton crops are of high interest to Earth scientists around the globe.
There are different types of phytoplankton, among them dinoflagellates, which have tails and churn through the sea water with two whip-like tails. Others are diatoms that can form circles, spirals or even long chains. Coccolithophroids are fewer in number and they have tiny units called chloroplasts. Scientists use many types of microscopes to study these organisms. They are classified on the basis of pigment called chlorophyll.
Life and Death of Phytoplankton
Phytoplankton live near the surface of the ocean because of their requirement, like all other green plants, for sunlight. Water and nutrients are also needed to live: They need water, carbon dioxide and iron. During cold conditions, nutrients are pushed up to the surface of the ocean, where they are consumed by the phytoplankton.
Effect on Global Climate
Ninety percent of marine plants are phytoplankton. Phytoplankton consume carbon dioxide for their survival, which means the number of phytoplankton is inversely proportional to the percentage of carbon dioxide in the climate. The more phytoplankton there are, the lower the amount of carbon dioxide in the environment. As the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere decreases, the temperature falls. As the population of phytoplankton is weakened, carbon dioxide levels increase, and temperatures rise.
Effect of Ozone Layer on Phytoplankton Crops
Due to certain conditions prevailing in the atmosphere, holes have formed in the ozone layer, which allows the harmful radiations of sunlight to penetrate it and reach objects on Earth. Scientists believe that many species of phytoplankton have been killed in the Arctic and Antarctic, the areas most vulnerable ozone depletion. They die because they are extremely sensitive to radiation from the sun, to which they are exposed because of the hole in the ozone layer.
Building an Eco-System
Phytoplankton are needed in order to maintain balance in ecological systems. Small fishes eat phytoplankton. They in turn are eaten by larger fishes and larger fishes become food for humans. Humans rely on phytoplankton not only as a key element in the food chain, but also as a natural ally by virtue of their elimination of poisonous gases.