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Ocean plant life slows down and absorbs less carbon

d with surface data from NOAA research vessels and buoys to reduce errors in the satellite records and to create an improved estimate of NPP.

The authors found nearly 70 percent of the NPP global decline per decade occurred in the high latitudes (above 30 degrees). In the North Pacific and North Atlantic basins, phytoplankton bloom rapidly in high concentrations in spring, leading to shorter, more intense lifecycles. In these areas, plankton quickly dies and can sink to the ocean floor, creating a potential pathway of carbon from the atmosphere into the deep ocean.

In the high latitudes, rates of plankton growth declined by 7 percent in the North Atlantic basin, 9 percent in the North Pacific basin, and 10 percent in the Antarctic basin when comparing the 1980s dataset with the late 1990s observations.

The decline in global ocean NPP corresponds with an increase in global sea surface temperatures of 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit (F) (0.2 degrees Celsius (C)) over the last 20 years. Warmer water creates more distinct ocean layers and limits mixing of deeper nutrient-rich cooler water with warmer surface water. The lack of rising nutrients keeps phytoplankton growth in check at the surface.

The North Atlantic and North Pacific experienced major increases in sea surface temperatures: 0.7 degrees C (1.26 F) and 0.4 degrees C (0.72 F) respectively. In the Antarctic, there was less warming, but lower NPP was associated with increased surface winds. These winds caused plankton to mix downward, cutting exposure to sunlight.

Also, the amount of iron deposited from desert dust clouds into the global oceans decreased by 25 percent over two decades. These dust clouds blow across the oceans. Reductions in NPP in the South Pacific were associated with a 35 percent decline in atmospheric iron deposition.

"These results illustrate the compl
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Contact: Krishna Ramanujan
kramanuj@pop900.gsfc.nasa.gov
301-286-3026
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
16-Sep-2003


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