Tiny Microenvironments in the Ocean hold clues to global nitrogen cylcle

I was reading an article by Environmental News Network about how microenvironment in the ocean could tell us more about the global nitrogen cycle. According to the article nitrogen is essential to marine life because some sea life require nitrogen in processes such as photosynthesis.In a research study done by Thomas Weber at the University of Rochester they saw that small mircroenvionments in the deep ocean can help track the cycling of nitrogen in the sea. If you don’t may not know what a microenvironment is it is the immediate small-scale environment of an organism or a part of an organsim, especially as a distinct part of a larger environment. In the research they found that the small microbes that remove nitrogen from the water that are in these microenvironments are more widespread than scientist previously thought. Weber says, “the previous understanding of the nitrogen cycle was that nitrogen was lost from the ocean in only three regions where oxygen is scarce. If we wanted to predict how the nitrogen cycle would respond to climate change, all we needed to do was predict how these three low oxygen regions would expand or contract. Our study changes that picture by showing that nitrogen loss is actually happening over much larger regions, and we think about how the ocean as a whole is changing.” The three regions that he talks about are: two off the coast of the Americas, just north and south of the equator and one on the Arabian Sea. These three regions are known as “dead zones” because only anaerobic microbes can live here because most sea life “breathe” or respire using oxygen. When there is no oxygen in the water the microbes respire using other compounds like nitrate ( a form of nitrogen). Which removes nitrogen form the ocean. Weber made a computer model that takes this new genetic information from these microbes and found that, ” anaerobic microbes exist not only in areas of unoxygenated water, but somehow thrive in areas of the ocean where there is oxygen, Nitrogen, therefore, may be lost across much of the ocean, not just in areas where oxygen is scarce.” With this new information they can redraw what the nitrogen cycle of the ocean would look like and according to Weber this change suggests that this anaerobic metabolism is a response to climate change because global warming causes ocean temperatures to rise which results in and increased loss of oxygen and therefore affects the nitrogen budget across the world. This relates to our class because we see the effects of climate change and how these microbes could be adapting to the changes in sea temperature. I tried to sum up the article as best as I could but I will attach a link if anyone would like to read it. Its very interesting and I think its crazy how these findings can shift major things like nitrogen cycles in the ocean. This is just a reminder that climate change is a real thing and that we have to do everything we can to save our oceans.



One thought on “Tiny Microenvironments in the Ocean hold clues to global nitrogen cylcle

  1. This information is very new to me. I never had an idea that the anaerobic organisms are surviving in now in “oxygeneted” area using the nitrate which is causing the temperature rise of ocean. Its interesting to see how the organism are adapting with its surrounding environment by using the the nitrate in the absence of Oxygen. I think it is the perfect example of positive feedback loop. Thanks for sharing this topic about the nitrogen cycle and microenvironment.

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