It is no exaggeration to say that phytoplankton are vital to life on Earth.
Not only do they form the base of the oceanic food chain, which in turn nourishes animals and people on land, but they also act as a global carbon sink, affect the climate of the entire planet, act as a marker for ecology problems and provide us with historical records over time.
1. Phytoplankton are the most important plants on earth!
NASA called them the most important plant in the world. Why? They provide almost all of the Earth’s oxygen and serve as a vital food supply for most marine life. They are the grass of the sea: single celled plants that use the sun’s energy. As primary producers, with the process of photosynthesis, they supply food and oxygen for marine life.
2. Without phytoplankton, our planet runs out of oxygen
Phytoplankton have been critical for controlling carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in the atmosphere of Earth since the Precambrian Era. Figures vary, but estimates suggest that they are one of earth’s major primary producers, responsible for up to 85% of the oxygen in the atmosphere and 50% of all photosynthesis on Earth. They function as a major carbon dioxide sink, pulling the gas from the atmosphere and emitting oxygen in its place; their population is a major factor in limiting global warming and in the general atmospheric health of the planet.
3. They are a critical indicator of ecosystem problems
Crashes in their population have serious ramifications for the entire marine ecosystem. their population is an early indicator of other ocean problems, such as excessive pollution. Certain species produce powerful biotoxins, making them responsible for so-called “red tides,” or harmful algal blooms. These toxic blooms can kill marine life and people who eat contaminated seafood.
4. Phytoplankton are even partially responsible for the weather
Phytoplankton have a role in the formation of clouds. Phytoplankton play a vital role by providing the clouds with cloud condensation nuclei; these microscopic particles are produced when the chemical ‘isoprene’, emitted by phytoplankton, oxidizes. Thus, phytoplankton not only play a role in marine life but also above sea level including climate change.
5. They show us history
Diatoms, a species of a marine phytoplankton, are well preserved in fossilised structures. The fossil record of diatoms has largely been established through the recovery of their siliceous frustules in marine environments, with major fossil deposits found as far back as the early Cretaceous, and with some rocks such as diatomaceous earth being composed almost entirely of them. This is especially useful in studying the condition of the oceans in the world and gives science an invaluable comparison to be able to conduct research about what oceans were like in the past.
Monitoring primary productivity with Chelsea Technologies
Phytoplankton photosynthetic physiology can be investigated through single turnover active fluorometry (STAF) approaches, which carries the unique potential to autonomously collect data at high spatial and temporal resolutions. Chelsea Technologies’ LabSTAF is a new generation fluorometer that uses single turnover active fluorometry to measure very low levels of photosynthesis, ideal for oligotrophic zonesAs primary producers, their importance for global climate studies cannot be understated! Phytoplankton provide almost all of the Earth’s oxygen and serve as a vital food supply for most marine life, and they are one of earth’s major primary producers, responsible for up to 85% of the oxygen in the atmosphere and 50% of all photosynthesis on Earth. They are a critical indicator of ecosystem problems, that even have a bearing on global weather, and give science invaluable insights into the climate history of the planet. Studying phytoplankton primary productivity has never been less urgent, and Chelsea’s LabSTAF is a vital tool in a scientist’s toolkit:
LabSTAF is the world’s leading portable instrumentation option for Phytoplankton primary productivity and Harmful Algal Blooms.
- Benchtop instrument to measure primary productivity using fluorescence, giving PE curves and data for over 50 useful parameters within 15 minutes
- LabSTAF includes a peristaltic pump, solenoid unit and flow-through stirrer unit to provide for mixing, sample exchange and a periodic cleaning cycle.
- Data from LabSTAF is interpreted and analysed internally in the included Surface Go