Globetrotting Phytoplankton More Likely To Survive Climate Change

By on May 12, 2016
Ocean sunset. (Credit: Public Domain)

Ocean sunset. (Credit: Public Domain)


A key to surviving climate change for many organisms is the ability to relocate. Princeton University researchers have found that phytoplankton have a better chance at surviving global warming than previously thought because they travel ocean currents so widely. They travel so much that they can move all over the globe in as little as 10 years, scientists have found.

Scientists made the find by regarding phytoplankton as particles with no ability to control their movements. They assumed that any particle would travel in the same way, including harmful particles such as pollutants, radioactive particles and plastic debris.

The researchers made use of Dijkstra’s algorithm, which finds the shortest path between two points when multiple routes are possible. This cut down on the total computing power needed to calculate phytoplankton travel routes. Surface current data from an MIT database were also utilized.

Multiple simulations were run, forecasting the routes of about 50 billion particles. But far more phytoplankton particles are believed to be in the ocean. The study didn’t take into account zooplankton, which can control their movements, and whose marine travels would likely differ.

Top image: Ocean sunset. (Credit: Public Domain)

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