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Algorithm finds missing phytoplankton in Southern Ocean

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Posted September 19, 2013
NASA satellites may have missed more than 50% of the phytoplankton in the Southern Ocean, making it far more difficult to estimate the carbon capture potential of this vast area of sea.
Algorithm finds missing phytoplankton in Southern Ocean
This still image is showing the concentrations of phytoplankton observed by satellites in the Southern Ocean. Credit: Robert Johnson

But now, new research published in the Journal of Geophysical ResearchThree improved satellite chlorophyll algorithms for the Southern Ocean, has led to the development of an algorithm that produces substantially more accurate estimates of Southern Ocean phytoplankton populations.

That research from the University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) was led by PhD student Rob Johnson and Associate Prof Peter Strutton

“This new algorithm allows us to detect changes in plankton numbers that have previously gone unnoticed,” said Mr Johnson.

“This better understanding of the phytoplankton population will, in turn, allow us to gain a much more accurate idea of how much carbon this ocean can take up.”

The importance of phytoplankton and their role in our planetary ecosystem cannot be underestimated. They form the base of the , produce half the oxygen on Earth and are partly responsible for the ocean uptake of at least a third of total human induced CO2 emissions.

 

Read more at: Phys.org

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