Wednesday 29 October 2014

Introduction to the project.

Introducing Rob and Ella, lecturer and Honours student from the University of Otago’s Chemistry department. We will be investigating the amount of dissolved iron in the oceans and seas around Antarctica. On this blog we will share some photo’s and experiences.

Dr Rob Middag (left) and Ella Patterson from the University of Otago

Why dissolved iron?
Metals are not usually regarded as food, yet metals are essential nutrients for all organisms. They form the reactive centres of enzymes, enabling these to perform biochemical functions, such as oxygen-transport or photosynthesis. As such, trace metals are central to the health of individual organisms as well as entire ecosystems. In the open ocean, the base of the food web is formed by unicellular algae, known as phytoplankton. For certain ocean regions such as around Antarctica, it is known that trace metals, notably iron, can limit the amount of phytoplankton that can grow, and thus the amount of life that can be sustained. Since phytoplankton take up CO2 from the atmosphere, iron influences atmospheric CO2 levels and global climate. Coastal Antarctica harbours large phytoplankton blooms that sustain Antarctica's key higher organisms such as penguins and whales. This region is experiencing dramatic change as the glaciers are melting rapidly. This project will reveal what role trace metals play in the Antarctic ecosystem and give us the ability to predict how its role in global climate will change under future climate scenarios.

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