Australia: Tasmanian scientists have used satellite imagery to find the first ever accurate measurement of the Southern Ocean’s phytoplankton population.
Phytoplankton, the microscopic plant-like organisms, are the base of the marine food chain. They produce about half the world”s oxygen. Researchers have been studying them to understand climate change models. University of Tasmania Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies PhD student Robert Johnson led a team from the Australian Antarctic Division, UTAS and the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC to access data from sea water samples, collected since 2003. They compared past satellite chlorophyll readings with phytoplankton content of seawater samples to calibrate the satellite images, which will improve the accuracy of future satellite imagery. Now, this re-calibration would enable satellites to monitor changes in phytoplankton populations, which has never been noticed so far. The researchers worked on more than 1000 seawater samples which were collected as part of a long-term monitoring programme.