Life in the Arctic ocean is much more resistant to global warming than previously suspected, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Aberdeen.
The study, published Tuesday, refutes speculations that global warming would cause a massive disruption to the Arctic ecosystem by killing off the algae living under sea ice.
“Our research shows that Arctic deep sea animals are more resilient to changes in their food supply than previously thought — an unexpected finding that suggests they are adaptable to the challenges imposed by climate change,” Ursula Witte, a biology professor who co-authored the research, said in a press statement.
Scientists previously worried that as the Arctic Ocean lost sea ice, tiny algae that live under the ice would die off, potentially starving the deep sea invertebrates that feed on the algae. The study looked at the Canadian Arctic and concluded deep sea life would also eat phytoplankton as an alternative food source.
“Arctic deep sea seafloor communities rely on ice algae and phytoplankton sinking from the surface waters for food,” Witte said. “Summer sea ice loss is predicted to increase phytoplankton but reduce ice algal production, but ice algae are a higher quality food source and reach the seafloor communities earlier in the year when other food is scarce.”
Previous research speculated that sea animals would have issues adapting to a new food supply, potentially causing a massive die-off.
“Previous research has indicated that the animals preferentially eat the high-quality ice algae, which would make them very vulnerable if this main food source was lost,” Witte said. “However, by feeding the deep-sea fauna of the Canadian Arctic with both ice algae and phytoplankton, we have been able to show that they will happily feed on both, with no group exclusively preferring ice algae.
This is the latest scientific study to show that nature is considerably more resilient to global warming than scientists suspected. Even the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change now believes the evidence linking global warming to extinctions is sparse.
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