The Star Early Edition

Ocean study shows decline in nutrients


A STUDY by a University of Cape Town researcher and internatio­nal colleagues has found a 20 percent decline in the number of microscopi­c plants in the Indian Ocean over the past decade.

This is due to the surface of the ocean warming and its impact on fish, the study, published in the journal Geo- physical Research Letters by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorolog­y, has found.

UCT researcher Marcello Vichi and other researcher­s contribute­d to the study which says the decline in microscopi­c plants could impact on food security in the Indian Ocean rim countries and the global fisheries markets in Japan, the US and several EU countries.

Vichi found this decline could affect the food chain, turning the biological­ly productive region into an ecological desert.

Primary production, the availabili­ty of organic compounds through photosynth­esis by microscopi­c plants, is the basis of the marine food web.

The Indian Ocean, especially the western region, hosts one of the largest microscopi­c plant blooms in summer owing to the availabili­ty of nutrient-rich waters driven by the Monsoons, Vichi found.

He found the large-scale distributi­on of tuna and other fish are associated with the abundance of these microscopi­c plants.

“The ocean has absorbed the largest portion of the extra heat caused by increased atmospheri­c greenhouse gases,” said Vichi.

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