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Climate change that has warmed the world's oceans has prompted a "worrying" northward migration among some communities of the smallest organisms in the sea: plankton.
That is the conclusion of new research published Thursday in the journal Nature examining the make-up of plankton communities across the northern hemisphere.
Creatures - Building - Blocks - Ocean - Importance
The unassuming creatures are sometimes referred to as the "building blocks" of the ocean because of their importance in the food chain, and their apparent migration is another indicator of the profound effect of climate change on the planet.
"This isn't good news for marine ecosystems," said Lukas Jonkers, the study's lead author and a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Bremen's Center for Marine Environmental Sciences.
Marine - Group - Zooplankton - State - AFP
"We see that we have pushed marine ecosystems, or at least this group of zooplankton, away from their natural state. I think that's very worrying," he told AFP.
"It means that even if we manage to keep the global temperature rise below 1.5 degrees, which is doubtful, ecosystems around the globe are likely to be profoundly affected."
Subject - Research - Organism - Foraminifera - Kind
The subject of the research is the organism known as planktonic foraminifera, a kind of plankton with a distinctive hard shell.
When these ubiquitous creatures die, they fall to the ocean floor like snow, and their hardy shells are able to resist the ravages of time.
Record - Plankton - Communities - Parts - World
That means they create an indispensable and unparalleled record of what plankton communities in different parts of the world have looked like going back centuries.
And that record solves a long-standing problem for researchers trying to examine how marine life has been affected by climate change—a clear baseline.
Jonkers - Record - Compare - Samples - Era
Jonkers decided to harness the record and compare samples collected in the modern era, between 1978 and 2013, with ocean floor sediment going back centuries.
What he found...
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