Could Coccolithophores Save The Earth From Global Warming ?


Ever heard of Coccolithophores? Despite their small size and their weird name, these tiny single-celled marine organisms are major regulators of global climate.

Most of the models used to predict climate change are based on ocean level, carbon dioxide and temperature measurements but fail to integrate marine ecosystems in their projections.

Actually, the whole process of climate and gas regulation by marine organisms is so complex that it is quite impossible to integrate in already complex models…and much more impossible to explain in details in this artile. I’ll try to do my best to keep it simple, concentrating on one of the top players, the Coccolithophores.

Coccolithophores are microscopic algae that are part of the Phytoplankton and build an exo-skeleton made of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) platelets called “Coccoliths”. They live at the surface of the oceans, and when they die, they sink and the calcium carbonate platelets form, over millions of years something that you are familiar to : chalk. Does that ring a (school) bell?

Calcium carbonate (CaCO3) is made of calcium…and of carbone dioxide (CO2) that the Coccolithophores capture in the atmosphere. They are the most efficient “carbon traps” that Nature ever invented.

Some scientists are promoting the stimulation of phytoplankton growth as a way to counterbalance the increasing carbon dioxide
emission that contribute to the GreenHouse Effect, but it was expected that the ocean acidification will prevent coccolithophores growth, making them unable to build their carbonate armor.

Recent observations have proved just the contrary: oceans acidification seems to cause the Coccolithophores to form bigger coccoliths, trapping more carbone dioxide from the atmosphere.

This fact alone could mean that current projections about climate change are over pessimistic. But the complete mechanism of global climate regulation is far too complex to allow quick conclusions.

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