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Menopausal Mother Nature

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Scientists Discover New Marine Microbe Species that Could Help Combat Climate Change | The Weather Channel – Articles from The Weather Channel | – The Weather Channel

Representative image of marine microbes. (NOAA-OER/BOEM)

Representative image of marine microbes.


At present, the world is relentlessly looking to develop potential carbon-capturing technologies to combat climate change. But even as we attempt to develop such technologies in labs, there are several nature-inspired solutions we can rely on for some short-term relief.

Towards this, scientists from the University of Technology Sydney have tried to explore the unknown potential of marine microbes, which thrive in the oceans worldwide. The new study indicates microbes have a much greater ability to absorb and store carbon than estimated.

Researchers highlight that these single-celled creatures’ role in the marine environment has not been well-established compared to other species like phytoplankton. They discovered a new, tiny marine microbe species that could play a pivotal role in capturing carbon during the study. The new microbe species is scientifically named Prorocentrum cf. balticum, which are single-cell organisms belonging to protists (eukaryotes).

“This is an entirely new species, never before described in this amount of detail. The implication is that there’s potentially more carbon sinking in the ocean than we currently think and that there is perhaps greater potential for the ocean to capture more carbon naturally through this process, in places that weren’t thought to be potential carbon sequestration locations,” explains Martina Doblin, one of the authors of the study.

The researchers studied microbes living in the waters offshore Sydney and called it a “secret weapon” to slow-down climate change. The microbes thrive in marine environments around the world – thus making them a vital resource in the fight against climate change.

Researchers prepare to launch sampling equipment in Port Hacking, eastern Australia. (University of Technology Sydney)

Researchers prepare to launch sampling equipment in Port Hacking, eastern Australia.

(University of Technology Sydney)

The creature is a mixotroph, which means it can photosynthesise just the way plants do, as well as consume other organisms. The process involves a complex chain of reactions, starting from marine microbes secreting a mucus-like substance called exopolymer mucosphere – rich in carbon. They then attract and trap other microbes. This entire consumption process makes the microbes much heavier, which gradually down into the ocean’s natural carbon pump.


Bringing down the carbon from the surface to deeper parts of the ocean is known as the vertical export of carbon. These carbon-capturing microbes hold the capacity to sink up to 0.15 gigatons of carbon annually. It has been calculated that approximately 10 gigatons of carbon need to be removed from the atmosphere every year to slow down global warming.

Though the microbes could remove only a small fraction of carbon, i.e., 1%, the tiny protist can still be important when the oceans are warming and becoming acidic at a drastic rate. Eventually, they will help regulate the global climate!

The study opens a whole new avenue on the importance of these tiny creatures, especially when the world is facing the exacerbating impact of climate change.

The results have been published in the journal Nature Climate Change and can be accessed here.


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