In 10 seconds? Researchers predict that the amount of carbon stored by plankton in the ocean will increase over the coming century. However, this could stall and subsequently reverse by 2100 due to climate change, resulting in the release of carbon back into the atmosphere.
What is happening? The ocean is a carbon sink, storing some of the excess carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere and helping to mitigate climate change. Phytoplankton, the microscopic plants that are found floating in the ocean, are the main reason that the ocean is one of the biggest carbon sinks by taking up and storing carbon during photosynthesis. It is part of – what is often called – the “biological pump” or “marine carbon pump”. Using the latest climate models from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), the researchers predict that phytoplankton will account for 5 to 17% of the increase in carbon uptake by the oceans by the end of the century.