(Australian Associated Press)
Microscopic plants at the bottom of the Southern Ocean food chain will be growing at twice their current rate by the end of the century as a result of climate change, researchers say.
Marine and Antarctic scientists linked to the University of Tasmania have tested the phytoplankton under conditions expected to exist by 2100.
“As the sunlit layers of the Southern Ocean continues to become warmer, fresher, more acidic, and lower in plant nutrients, we are expecting major changes in the growth rate of marine phytoplankton,” lead author of the research paper, Professor Philip Boyd, said.
“Based on our experimental work, we are expecting the growth rate of phytoplankton in the sub-Antarctic Southern Ocean to nearly double by the year 2100.”
The flow-on effect of the plant growth remains unknown but forms an important basis for further research, Prof Boyd added.
Factors including a combination of temperature, carbon dioxide, iron, nutrients, and light have been proven to determine the health and growth rates of marine organisms.
The research was published on Tuesday in the Nature Climate Change journal.
The team hopes to continue its research in 2016.