Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Ocean Abyss: not immune to global warming

The Abyss - no, not the movie; I'm referring to the deepest waters of the ocean in which the abyssal seafloor covers over 50% of the planet. This is an ecosystem that contains great biodiversity (scientists have barely scratched its surface and have come away with new and unusual species) and plays a key role in maintaining the ocean's proper balance of detritus management and nutrient, chemical, and mineral levels.

In the ocean, where do all the dead animals and plants go? Mostly into the abyss to be broken down, processed and, in essence, recycled. But a recent study shows that global warming and human activities are having an impact on this mysterious region. Temperature change and human activities such as ocean fertilization are impacting the level and quality of food or detritus that makes its way to the abyss. With this fundamental link in the chain being disrupted, there are many unforeseen but predicated consequences to the ecological structure and biodiversity of the ocean's deepest regions.

We think of global warming in terms of its impact on the sky, the land, and the ocean as far as the eye can see. But we need to remind ourselves it is a global issue - from the blackest edge of space to the blackest corner of the deep, deep sea.

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