March 17, 2009

Antarctica climate change affects microbes

A U.S.-led study has found climate change on the Antarctic Peninsula -- one of the most rapidly warming spots on Earth -- is now affecting microscopic life.

Researchers using detailed satellite data have discovered global warming is not only affecting just the penguins at the top of the food chain, but simultaneously life at the base of the ecosystem.

The researchers from the National Science Foundation's LTER -- Long Term Ecological Research program -- led by Hugh Ducklow of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole, Mass., found the productivity of the waters of the Antarctic Peninsula has changed dramatically in the last 20 years.

I have to say the findings weren't a surprise; I think with the weight of all the other observations that we had on changes happening to organisms higher up in the food chain, we thought that phytoplankton weren't going to escape this level of climate change, Ducklow said.

The research that included postdoctoral fellow Martin Montes Hugo appears in Science magazine.