November 11, 2008

Phytoplankton Makes Life Possible on Earth

Earths oceans are wide reaching and teeming with life. One microscopic aquatic organism plays a major role in making life on Earth possible: phytoplankton. Under certain conditions, excessive phytoplankton growth can result in an area known as a dead zone. Dead zones form when big blooms of phytoplankton at the surface trigger large quantities of organic matter, which then sink to the bottom. Bacteria break down the organic material, releasing carbon dioxide but absorbing oxygen as they work. Most marine organisms need oxygen for survival and dead zones prove fatal for many aquatic species. This short web video features dynamic animations, science data visualizations, and interview excerpts with a NASA oceanographer to explore this fascinating marine phenomenon.

credit: NASA

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