Phytoplankton – Earth’s Oxygen producing ecosystem
One of The Environment4Change Foundations (‘E4C’) objectives is to educate humanity on environmental matters, particularly those of utmost importance. Cleaning up our shared planet, is of this kind, particularly when our nature and its ecosystem is shared across the globe. Accordingly, and importantly we all must share information that helps humanity understand the importance of the environment in which we all live.
Having an abundance of oxygen to breath is key to humanities survival. From high school biology, we were taught that “the lungs of our planet are our rainforests and jungles.” It certainly made sense! We learnt the process of photosynthesis took in carbon dioxide and gave out oxygen.
Wikipedia describes photosynthesis as “a process used by plants and other organisms to convert light energy into chemical energy that can later be released to fuel the organisms' activities. This chemical energy is stored in carbohydrate molecules, such as sugars, which are synthesized from carbon dioxide and water. In most cases, oxygen is also released as a waste product.” Ref: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photosynthesis
The most well-known and largest rainforest is of course the Amazon. Scientific estimates vary as to the quantity of oxygen the Amazon produces, from 1% to 20% of global oxygen supply.
“WHAT?” Only, 20% at best, I hear you say”.
So, if it the majority of oxygen isn’t coming from the Amazon rainforests, where is it coming from?
Just as our planet is blue, given the predominance of water covering its surface, so too does the majority of oxygen originate from our oceans. The epipelagic zone (down to a depth of 200m) is the part of the ocean where there is enough sunlight for microscopic marine algae (aka Phytoplankton) to utilize photosynthesis. These microscopic marine algae are similar to terrestrial plants in that they contain chlorophyll and require sunlight in order to live and grow. There are thousands of animals that roam this zone, including dolphins, most sharks, jellyfish, tuna and corals. Despite microscopic marine algae being one of the smallest types of living organisms in the world's oceans, its substantial number makes it responsible for a major part of the oceans' and world's photosynthesis and oxygen production. It also provides the primary food source to a large percentage of the life in the ocean, a cycle that has existed for millions of years. An alga that warrants special mention here is: Prochlorococcus.
“Prochlorococcus, a cyanobacterium that is the smallest, most abundant photosynthesizing cell in the ocean. Its many different versions, or ecotypes, thrive from the sunlit sea surface to a depth of 200 meters, where light is minimal.”1
1: Biologist - Penny Chisholm made Prochlorococcus her life's work
Since E4C’s inception, we have maintained the importance of the health of the Oceans as key to life on earth. If we pollute our land, rivers and oceans, oceans will suffer by loss of bio diversity and oxygen in the oceans. This can occur naturally, but mostly occurs as a result of human-associated effects.
We know algae gives us and all life the vast majority of our oxygen. We also know that algae blooms occur through a concentration of algae often as a result of human effects such as fertilizer, sewage or other pollutant runoff or as an effect of climate change. Oxygen in the ocean is depleted as a result of the eventual and evitable decay of the algae. In all-natural circular systems where life is followed by death, huge growths of bacteria consume oxygen from the water as they feed on the rotting algae. This can result in ocean “dead zones” where there is no oxygen in the water to support life, meaning important species needed to maintain ocean food chains, die off.
In past blogs, we’ve brought to your attention the damage being done by pollution and the rubbishing of our planet and how our Platform as-a-Service can help fix this shared problem. That pollution and rubbishing often starts upstream in creaks and small waterways, but eventually, everything finds its way into our shared oceans. Oceans give us a wonderful assortment of food to eat but also our oxygen we need to breath … and that’s pretty important. That is why humanity needs a digital toolset that allows, enables and empowers local communities to clean up their local environments before pollutions and rubbish finds its way into our oceans, the true lungs of our planet.