Jellyfish Take Carbon To The Ocean Floor


"Pyrosomes are colonial tunicates, animals related to sea squirts, that look like fuzzy paint rollers, with individuals arranged around a hollow tubular center. This one has a spiny single-celled animal called a radiolarian, hitching a ride at one end."
Image credit:Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Eco-idealogs commonly characterize iron seeding proposals, which are intended to renew marine plankton growth, thus scouring more carbon from the atmosphere, as either unethical or ineffectual. The serial negativism about iron seeding amounts to spinning scientific uncertainty. Every new research report "proves" the negative (just like it does with climate deniers). If this isn't making sense for you, please see my earlier post: Anti-Science Environmentalism: Iron Seeding Experiment Protested...Again. Then read on about the role of jellyfish in consuming plankton and then pulling atmospherically-originating carbon into the ocean depths. Envirtonmental Research Web reports on a study which documents that Jellies fast track carbon to the seafloor. From the article:-

Mario Lebrato and Dr Daniel Jones of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton have just published an account of the rapid mass transport of carbon to the deep-sea floor in the bodies of jellyfish-like creatures called pyrosomes. Their findings provide new insights into the way we understand carbon processes at large-scales, and demonstrate the importance of gelatinous zooplankton carcasses in the functioning of benthic (seafloor) ecosystems.

Because of the absence of light, deep-sea benthic ecosystems largely depend on the export of organic carbon from the sunlit surface waters. Much of this carbon comes from the remains of phytoplankton, the tiny plant-like micro-organisms that dominate primary production in the oceans, as well as the dead bodies and faecal pellets of the animals – zooplankton – that graze on them. The input of carbon to the deep sea is usually estimated using sediment traps, but they miss carbon from other organisms such as jellyfish and other gelatinous marine creatures. The ecological and biogeochemical significance of such additional carbon inputs has been difficult to estimate, but should not be ignored. It has been overlooked in biogeochemical models,....

Why does this entire discussion remind me of that childhood favorite, A Fly Went By, in which a boy figures out the chain of events in which something 'attacks' a man, who chases the fox, who follows the cow, who stalks the pig, who ambushes the dog, who races after the cat ,who pursues the frog, who hops after the fly?

Iron seeding renews the entire marine food chain: not just plankton.

I love that phrase rapid mass transport of carbon. Exactly what the doctor ordered: get Planet Earth into the ER, and therein stabilized for further diagnosis and treatment.

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