Nav: Home

Fossil zooplankton indicate that marine ecosystems have entered the Anthropocene

May 28, 2019

It can be said that marine plankton has now entered the Anthropocene epoch. The researchers compared the compositions of fossil plankton (foraminifera) assemblages in sediments of the pre-industrial era with those of more recent times. The team has published their results in the journal Nature.

Planktonic foraminifera are microscopic organisms that live in the surface waters of the oceans. When they die their calcareous shells are deposited in the seafloor sediments. These fossil foraminifera document the species communities before humans began to alter the Earth's climate. In turn, information on the present-day state of planktonic foraminifera is revealed by samples collected in sediment traps over the past 50 years. By comparing the fossil and modern communities of foraminifera, researchers can determine to what extent the plankton assemblages have changed since the beginning of industrialization.

For their study, Dr. Lukas Jonkers and Prof. Michal Kucera of MARUM at the University of Bremen, and Prof. Helmut Hillebrand of the Institute for Chemistry and Biology of the Marine Environment (ICBM) at the University of Oldenburg, compared over 3,700 samples from pre-industrial sediments with samples from sediment traps that reflect the plankton status from 1978 to 2013. The scientists have concluded that the present-day species communities are systematically different from pre-industrial times. "The exciting result was that this difference is not accidental, rather it reflects a signal of global warming. Modern communities in areas that are becoming warmer are similar to pre-industrial communities from warmer regions, indicating that species communities have shifted their distribution in a direction consistent with temperature change," explains Lukas Jonkers.

"We have known for a long time that species associations are changing, but for many biological communities there were no reliable benchmarks, particularly on a global scale, due to the short time duration of observations," says Jonkers. This has now changed with the data analyzed by these workers. "The data set is very large and also globally representative." The disturbing aspect of the observation is that in many regions of the ocean the plankton communities have evidently migrated "into alien waters". There they must adapt to new conditions and, in some cases, rebuild their food webs. "The question is whether they can do this rapidly enough, or whether climate change will progress faster than the communities can adapt," says Michal Kucera.

"Our cooperation illustrates how important it is for paleoecology and modern biodiversity research to work together," adds Helmut Hillebrand. He is the head of the planktology working group of the ICBM and of the Helmholz Institute for Functional Marine Biodiversity at the University of Oldenburg. "Our study helps to understand how climate change impacts biodiversity. This is one of the prominent questions in the latest global report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

The reaction of marine ecosystems to climate change is an ongoing topic of research by scientists in Oldenburg and Bremen within the Cluster of Excellence "The Ocean Floor - Earth's Uncharted Interface."
-end-
Contact: Dr. Lukas Jonkers
Mikropaläontologie - Paläozeanographie
Telefon: +49 (0)421 - 218 65973
E-Mail: ljonkers@marum.de

Original publication: Lukas Jonkers, Helmut Hillebrand, Michal Kucera: Global change drives modern plankton communities away from pre-industrial state. Nature 2019. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-019-1230-3

MARUM produces fundamental scientific knowledge about the role of the ocean and the ocean floor in the total Earth system. The dynamics of the ocean and the ocean floor significantly impact the entire Earth system through the interaction of geological, physical, biological and chemical processes. These influence both the climate and the global carbon cycle, and create unique biological systems. MARUM is committed to fundamental and unbiased research in the interests of society and the marine environment, and in accordance with the Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. It publishes its quality-assured scientific data and makes it publicly available. MARUM informs the public about new discoveries in the marine environment and provides practical knowledge through its dialogue with society. MARUM cooperates with commercial and industrial partners in accordance with its goal of protecting the marine environment.

MARUM - Center for Marine Environmental Sciences, University of Bremen

Related Climate Change Articles:

Mysterious climate change
New research findings underline the crucial role that sea ice throughout the Southern Ocean played for atmospheric CO2 in times of rapid climate change in the past.
Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: The Power Of Spaces
How do spaces shape the human experience? In what ways do our rooms, homes, and buildings give us meaning and purpose? This hour, TED speakers explore the power of the spaces we make and inhabit. Guests include architect Michael Murphy, musician David Byrne, artist Es Devlin, and architect Siamak Hariri.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

What If?
There's plenty of speculation about what Donald Trump might do in the wake of the election. Would he dispute the results if he loses? Would he simply refuse to leave office, or even try to use the military to maintain control? Last summer, Rosa Brooks got together a team of experts and political operatives from both sides of the aisle to ask a slightly different question. Rather than arguing about whether he'd do those things, they dug into what exactly would happen if he did. Part war game part choose your own adventure, Rosa's Transition Integrity Project doesn't give us any predictions, and it isn't a referendum on Trump. Instead, it's a deeply illuminating stress test on our laws, our institutions, and on the commitment to democracy written into the constitution. This episode was reported by Bethel Habte, with help from Tracie Hunte, and produced by Bethel Habte. Jeremy Bloom provided original music. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.     You can read The Transition Integrity Project's report here.