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The South Pacific Gyre is an ocean desert. However, due to its vast size the microbial inhabitants of the South Pacific Gyre contribute significantly to global biogeochemical cycles. In an unparalleled investigation, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Bremen, Germany, have now made a comprehensive inventory of the microbial community of the South Pacific Gyre. This insight was achieved through the development of a novel tool that enables the on-board analysis of the ocean's smallest inhabitants.
The middle of the South Pacific is as far away from land as you can possibly get. Solar irradiance is dangerously high, reaching a UV-index that is labelled 'extreme'. There are no dust particles or inflows from the land and as a result these waters have extremely low nutrient concentrations, and thus are termed 'ultraoligotrophic'. Chlorophyll-containing phytoplankton (minute algae) are found only at depths greater than a hundred meters, making surface South Pacific waters the clearest in the world. Due to its remoteness and enormous size—the South Pacific Gyre covers 37 million km2 (for comparison, the US cover less than 10 million km2)—it is also one of the least studied regions on our planet.
Remoteness - Satellite - Measurements - Microorganisms - Waters
Despite its remoteness, both satellite and in situ measurements indicate that the microorganisms living in the waters of the South Pacific Gyre (SPG) contribute significantly to global biogeochemical cycles. Thus, the scientists from Bremen were interested in discovering which microbes are living and active in this ocean desert. During a six-week research cruise on the German research vessel FS Sonne, organized and led by the Max Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology, Greta Reintjes, Bernhard Fuchs and Tim Ferdelman collected hundreds of samples along a 7000 kilometre track through the South Pacific Gyre from Chile to New Zealand. The scientists sampled the microbial community at 15 Stations in water...
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