Tiny MIT ecosystem may shed light on climate change
CEE researchers Professor Roman Stocker and post-doctoral fellow Justin Seymour have created a microbial ecosystem smaller than a stick of gum that sheds new light on the plankton-eat-plankton world at the bottom of the aquatic food chain. The work, reported in the January print issue of American Naturalist, may lead to better predictions of marine microbes’ global-scale influence on climate. Through photosynthesis and uptake of carbon compounds, diverse planktonic marine microorganisms — too small to be seen with the naked eye — help regulate carbon flux in the oceans. Carbon flux refers to the rate at which energy and carbon are transferred from lower to higher levels of the marine food web, and it may have implications for commercial fisheries and other ocean-dependent industries. The MIT study is one of the first detailed explorations of how sea creatures so small — 500,000 can fit on the head of a pin — find food in an ocean-size environment. Read more.