Ukrainian scientists at the Akademik Vernadsky station have discovered a sudden increase in chlorophyll content in the ocean near Galindez Island.
Thus, in November 2023, at all monitoring sites (i.e., where water samples are taken), this figure was 2.5-3 times higher compared to November 2022.
Biologists Taras Peretyatko and Maria Pavlovska suggest that this is due to the effects of global warming. Recently, record low sea ice areas have been recorded in the Antarctic, so the ocean receives more sunlight and heats up. In particular, in November last year, the water temperature at the monitoring points ranged from -1.1 to -0.7 C°, and this year it is from 0.3 to 0.9 C°.
Light and elevated temperatures accelerate the process of photosynthesis in plants, in which chlorophyll is actively involved. Therefore, the increase in chlorophyll content in water samples indicates the active development of plant organisms (phytoplankton) in the ocean. These are mostly single-celled microscopic or even nanoalgae that are difficult to see with the naked eye.
Phytoplankton are the basis of food for all ocean life, so an increase in their numbers triggers cascading processes and affects the lives of other marine organisms, from krill to whales. More light will also cause changes in the species composition of microalgae, which means changes in their cell size and other characteristics.
According to scientists, all of these processes will change the architecture of ocean food webs and have global implications for the flow of matter and energy in marine ecosystems. Therefore, knowing the response of phytoplankton to climate change (which is very sensitive to changes in environmental conditions), we can predict its impact on other organisms such as krill, fish, whales, and seals.
Ongoing phytoplankton research
That is why Ukrainian scientists conduct ongoing research on phytoplankton. Biologists at Vernadsky regularly take water samples at certain points around Galindez Island. In the laboratory, this water is filtered to isolate phytoplankton and bacterioplankton samples, as well as to determine the chlorophyll content and hydrochemical parameters (concentrations of oxygen, iron, nitrate, nitrite, sulfate, etc.).
Samples of bacterial and phytoplankton are recorded, stored in special conditions and then transported to Ukraine for further study.
Previous research shows that the process of active phytoplankton development in the spring and summer occurs annually, but it may be driven by different groups of organisms. Studying this difference allows us to track the impact of climate change on the marine environment. Therefore, the current samples that have produced such an increase in chlorophyll in the ocean will be carefully studied for the composition of bacterial and phytoplankton communities and the interaction between them.
We remind you that yesterday during COP28, Ukrainian Antarctic researchers told about climate anomalies recorded at the Akademik Vernadsky station, including temperature, ice and snow records.