Less to eat

Climate change hits food chain of North Sea

Published: Tuesday 30 November 2004

The base: planktons of North S global warming is driving the North Sea ecosystem to the brink of collapse. This warning comes from an analysis of half-a-century of data on the abundance of plankton. Rising temperatures are effecting when these creatures breed; this in turn, is impacting, the food chain.

Martin Edwards and Anthony Richardson of the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, uk, examined the records of 66 plankton groups. They compared the abundance of different groups with sea temperature changes.

The timings of spring and autumn blooms of diatoms and dinoflagellates -- plankton that photosynthesise -- has stayed constant because these organisms use the changing lengths of the day as their cue to reproduce. But plankton higher up in the food chain (like copepods) have responded unfavourably: their larvae now appear two months late each year. This is creating a serious mismatch between producers and consumers, as it means that animals near the top of the food chain, such as fish and seabirds, have less to eat.

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