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Maximizing Sea Life’s Ability to Reduce Atmospheric Carbon May Help Combat Climate Change

Monday, December 21, 2015 12:00 am EST
"There has been a cascade of rising atmospheric CO2 driving warming, reducing sea ice, leading to longer micro-algal blooms—which means longer meal times for animals, which are growing more"

New research on West Antarctic seabed life reveals that the remote region of the South Orkney Islands is a carbon sink hotspot. The findings suggest that this recently designated (and world’s first) entirely high seas marine protected area may be a powerful natural ally in combating rising CO2 as sea ice melts.

“There has been a cascade of rising atmospheric CO2 driving warming, reducing sea ice, leading to longer micro-algal blooms—which means longer meal times for animals, which are growing more,” said Dr. David Barnes, senior author of the Global Change Biology study. The recently discovered polar seabed carbon gains remove carbon from cycling and represent a key negative feedback working against climate change.

This new science, which was conducted with Darwin Initiative funding, suggests that researchers should investigate whether maximizing natural carbon capture by seabed life could help reduce global CO2

Additional Information

Barnes, D. K. A., Ireland, L., Hogg, O. T., Morley, S., Enderlein, P. and Sands, C. J. (2015), Why is the South Orkney Island shelf (the world's first high seas marine protected area) a carbon immobilization hotspot?. Glob Change Biol. doi:10.1111/gcb.13157

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