What produces the most oxygen on earth?
Did you know that more than half of the oxygen on earth is produced by these tiny one-celled plants in the surface of the ocean called phytoplankton?
What is phytoplankton?
Phytoplankton is a generic term for more than 5,000 different species of micro-organisms that live in the ocean or in freshwater. Phytoplankton use the sun to produce energy, which makes them similar to marine plants.
What is the difference between plankton, phytoplankton and zooplankton?
Plankton is a general term that refers to any of the tens of thousands of species of micro-organisms floating near the surface of the ocean, while phytoplankton refers specifically to the subset of plankton that performs photosynthesis.
Zooplankton derive their energy by feeding on phytoplankton, other zooplankton or bacteria instead of photosynthesis. Zooplankton are microscopic animals in the sea, whereas phytoplankton are microscopic plants.
Why is it so important?
More than half of the world’s oxygen is produced by photosynthesis in phytoplankton (if you want to know more about how oxygen is produced, please see our article “Where does the oxygen come from?”). The other half is produced by photosynthesis on land by trees, shrubs, grasses and other plants.
Not only do they provide oxygen for everyone on the planet, but phytoplankton are also at the bottom of the food chain in the ocean. Smaller fish eat them and are in turn eaten by larger fish.
What is phytoplankton photosynthesis?
Phytoplankton need two things for photosynthesis and thus for their survival: Single-celled plants use the energy of the sun to transform carbon dioxide and nutrients into complex organic compounds, which form new plant material. Phytoplankton absorb both through their cell walls.
This process in which phytoplankton grow also allows these microscopic marine plants to release oxygen into the water.
Where do phytoplankton live?
Phytoplankton can live almost anywhere there is water, from freshwater lakes and rivers to the ocean and hypersaline basins.
You might think that phytoplankton are most abundant at the water’s surface, because there is the most light. But in fact, they are often most abundant at a depth of about 300 feet.
The reason is that deeper water has more nutrients, especially more nitrogen, so this depth represents the best compromise for phytoplankton between getting enough sunlight and getting enough of the nutrients they need to thrive.
Unfortunately, phytoplankton are in danger due to climate change. 😥
Phytoplankton prefer cooler water, and as the oceans are getting warmer, their population is decreasing. Migration of phytoplankton to cooler waters could impact marine life that could starve. If you want to read more about the
In conclusion, it is important to protect our oceans!
Source: National geographic