Climate change’s impact on microbes alters the greenhouse gases in oceans

This study can enhance our understanding of their impact on human life.

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The ocean helps protect our Earth from climate change. It does this by taking in carbon dioxide (CO2) and heat that humans release into the air. This is good because it keeps some harmful stuff out of the atmosphere. However, too much CO2 and heat can make the ocean warmer, more acidic, and have less oxygen.

Also, there’s a problem with too much nitrogen coming from the air and going into the open ocean. This can change many things in the ocean, like how tiny organisms live and make and break down certain chemicals. It can even affect the production of gases like nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4), which are bad for the environment.

Even though the ocean typically adds a small amount of these gases to the air, about 2%, we’re still determining how climate change might make this worse. So, we still need to learn more about how our changing climate affects these gases that can cause global warming to worsen.

Scientists at Incheon National University have explored the impact of climate change on marine microbes. Their research helps raise awareness about climate change’s severity and ocean resources’ importance.

Scientists have studied how tiny organisms without cell nuclei (prokaryotes) in the Western North Pacific Ocean are affected by climate change. They looked at how ocean warming (OW), ocean acidification (OA), ocean deoxygenation (OD), and increased atmospheric nitrogen deposition (AND) impact these organisms at different levels of the ocean: the surface layer (SL), intermediate layer (IL), and deep layer (DL). They used methods like biogeochemical analysis and genetic sequencing of microbial genomes to understand the microbial community and how they affect the cycles of nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4).

The results showed that these tiny organisms in all ocean layers are influenced by the factors causing climate change. Over an extended period, the delicate marine ecosystem in the Western North Pacific Ocean can be harmed by an increase in N2O production, leading to changes in pH, which in turn increases the emission of CH4. 

These findings challenge what we previously believed about the role of these tiny organisms and the processes in the ocean related to climate change. It also shifts our attention to understanding how climate change affects the entire open ocean ecosystem.

Prof. Il-Nam Kim, Associate Professor of Marine Science at Incheon National University, said“Climate change leads to marine environmental changes, and this study can enhance our understanding of their impact on human life.”

“This research will contribute to raising the awareness about the severity of climate change and the importance of the ocean resources.”

This study could shape future marine ecosystem research.

Journal Reference:

  1. Satheeswaran Thangaraj, Hyo-Ryeon Kim, et al. Unraveling prokaryotic diversity distribution and functional pattern on nitrogen and methane cycling in the subtropical Western North Pacific Ocean. Marine Pollution Bulletin. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2023.115569

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