Global Warming Sparks Plankton Migration
Global warming is causing microscopic marine life in the seas around the UK to move north, in the biggest shift in the past 100 years and raising concerns that other marine species could follow, according to a Government report out today.
Scientists working on the Continuous Plankton Recorder survey have found that the warm water plankton in the North Sea are migrating northwards while cold water plankton are moving even further north as seawater temperature rises.
Plankton are at the start of almost all food chains in the marine environment, so movement is likely to impact on the animals that feed upon them, according to the document "Charting Progress: An Integrated Assessment of the State of UK Seas".
Plankton importantly act as a "biological pump" using the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as their food carbon source for growth, which in turn produces more food for fish.
Without this process, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be much higher.
The Continuous Plankton Recorder survey has been monitoring near surface plankton in the North Atlantic and North Sea for the past 70 years. It is one of the longest running marine monitoring programmes in the world.
Chief Scientific Adviser at the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Howard Dalton, who launched the report with Environment Minister Elliot Morley said: "The threat of climate change is becoming more certain. The Continuous Plankton Recorder is one of the most valuable long-term datasets monitoring these tiny organisms in our seas.
"The shift in plankton species is surprisingly large compared to movements of plants or birds on land. By understanding the movement of plankton, we are much better able to handle our fish resources."