A new study has shown that climate change could potentially convert ocean plankton microbes from carbon sinks to carbon emitters.
While the exact mechanism of how this happens is unknown, researchers found that the behavior of organisms before switching can act as a trigger warning to climate change tipping points.
Also, scientists noted that increases in nutrients in the environment, like excess nitrogen, can end up suppressing these signs.
According to the lead author Dr. Daniel Wieczynski:
“Our research demonstrates that mixotrophic microbes play a far more significant role in ecosystem responses to climate change than previously recognized. Through their conversion of microbial communities into net carbon dioxide emitters under warming conditions, mixotrophs have the potential to contribute to an acceleration of global warming, establishing a positive feedback loop between the biosphere and the atmosphere.”
While study co-author Dr. Holly Moeller added:
“Mixotrophs act as ‘switches’ that have the potential to either mitigate or exacerbate climate change due to their ability to both capture and emit carbon dioxide. Although these microorganisms are minuscule in size, their effects can have significant implications on a larger scale. Models such as the one we developed are crucial for enhancing our understanding of these dynamics.”
Fellow co-author Dr. Jean-Philippe Gibert also commented on the discovery, stating:
“Current advanced forecasts of extended climate shifts merely consider microbial activity in an excessively simplified, incomplete, or occasionally inaccurate manner. Consequently, research such as this is crucial to enhance our comprehensive comprehension of the biotic regulations governing Earth’s atmospheric mechanisms.”
You can find the original study here.