Greenhouse Gas Muncher
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Scientists recently discovered a tiny marine predator that could be the “secret weapon” in fighting climate change, according to Sky News.
A research team found the single-celled microbe isolated from waters off the coast of Sydney, Australia. Named Prorocentrum cf. balticum, the small predator uses photosynthesis and generates a carbon-rich mucus-like substance to attract and trap other microbes for consumption.
Once it’s done feeding, the microorganism dumps the carbon-rich mucus, which sinks – because of the weight of surplus prey trapped inside – to the bottom of the ocean and adds carbon back into the oceans’ carbon-cycling system.
The team explained that the marine microbe is contributing to the process of transporting carbon from the ocean’s surface to deeper levels, known as vertical carbon export, and carbon sequestration – the process of trapping and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Both these processes are important in controlling global temperature, Newsweek reported. And this microorganism’s work is a first for scientists – previous studies have highlighted the role that planktons play in storing carbon dioxide but not that of other microbes.
Researchers estimate that the new microbe can sink up to 0.15 gigatons of carbon each year, adding that it could become “a game-changer in the way we think about carbon and the way it moves in the marine environment.”
Scientists believe that humanity needs to remove 10 gigatons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year from now until 2050 in order to reach climate targets.