Oceanic plankton microorganisms are becoming CO2 emitters resulting climate change : Study

The numerous plankton bacteria found in the seas may start acting as carbon emitters as a result of climate change, according to a recent study published in Functional Ecology. The researchers hypothesize that rising temperatures are making these plankton bacteria produce carbon dioxide rather of absorbing it, which may make climate change consequences worse.

Autotrophic and heterotrophic states can alternate in mixotrophs

It is believed that mixotrophic microorganisms make up the bulk of marine plankton and are extensively distributed in both fresh and salt water. There are both autotrophs and heterotrophs among these bacteria. Mixotrophs may alternate between using other plankton as food or performing photosynthesis like plants. They have the ability to both capture and release carbon dioxide, acting as a switch.

The nature of mixotrophic microorganisms is evolving

Computer modeling was used by Duke University and University of California Santa Barbara researchers to examine how mixotrophic microorganisms generate energy in a warming environment.
It was discovered that mixotrophic microorganisms changed from being carbon absorbers to emitters when temperatures rose. This suggests that instead of having a net cooling impact on Earth, these bacteria may instead have a net warming effect.

Global warming might be accelerated by mixotrophic bacteria

“Our findings reveal mixotrophic microbes are much more important players in ecosystem responses to climate change than previously thought,” said Daniel Wieczynski, the lead author of the study from Duke University.”By converting microbial communities to net carbon dioxide sources in response to warming, mixotrophs could further accelerate warming by creating a positive feedback loop between the biosphere and the atmosphere,” he added.

Simulationas were run by researchers across a 4-degree temperature range

The scientists ran simulations between the range of 19 and 23 degrees Celsius, which is a 4-degree temperature window for the study. The key 1.5 degrees Celsius boundary will likely be crossed for the first time in the coming five years, according to predictions.
Furthermore, it is anticipated that the warming rates would surpass 2-4 degrees before the century is out.

These bacteria might serve as indicators of a rapidly changing climate

It’s noteworthy to note that the population of mixotrophic microorganisms dramatically increases just before they begin to produce carbon dioxide.
Thus, monitoring them might alert to crucial moments in the battle against climate change.
Because mixotrophs are prevalent in peatlands, a key carbon sink, these microorganisms may serve as early warning signs of the disastrous consequences of fast climate change, according to Wieczynski.

The study can still use some enhancement

The study, which looked at how warming of the climate affects microbial communities, was based on “limited empirical evidence”. “Models are useful tools, but theoretical conclusions must finally be verified by empirical research. We fervently urge more experimental and observational testing of our findings, according to Wieczynski.

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