Pectinatella magnifica	Bryozoan, living, Rheinberg

CO2 Eating Organisms In the Antarctic

When we hear about climate change, it’s usually about humans destroying the basis of our own livelihoods – with ecosystems as the victim. However, researcher David Barnes of the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) just published some new findings that could prove this perspective wrong.

After 20 years of collecting data, Mr. Barnes found out that in the melting of Antarctic ice led to a marked increase of the presence of bryozoans, living organisms that absorb CO2. Their number has doubled over the past two decades, and scientists estimate that they are absorbing an amount of CO2 equivalent to about 50,000 hectares of tropical rainforest per annum. This would consequently have a slowing effect on climate change.

When polar ice melts, the white and reflecting poles become much darker, therefore absorbing more heat and melting more ice – usually creating a vicious cycle. But this melting can have a positive effect: where the water is relatively shallow, ice-free water helps the growth of phytoplankton, which in turn feeds the bryozoans, who therefore absorb a significant amount of carbon.

There are surprising differences in the amount of carbon taken up in different regions in Antarctica. As these differences are linked to the sea ice losses at each location, there are big hopes of finding such organisms in the Arctic area too.

Scientists already knew that algae and arctic forests partially mitigate climate change. By studying these organisms, the range of species that absorb CO2 has just increased. It is amazing how, although not visible, ecosystems have already begun reacting climate change, stabilizing the planet. Seems “homo sapiens” still have much to learn.