New Life Discovered By NASA – In The Arctic!
Scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have been shocked by the discovery of marine plant life in the arctic.
Researchers have been working the last two summers off of the coast of Alaska in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.
The primary purpose of the research has been the effect of radiation from the sun on the arctic area, but there has been an effort to simultaneously look at the effect of global warming also.
“Part of NASA’s mission is pioneering scientific discovery, and this is like finding the Amazon rainforest in the middle of the Mojave Desert,” said Paula Bontempi, NASA’s ocean biology and biogeochemistry program manager in Washington. “We embarked on ICESCAPE to validate our satellite ocean-observing data in an area of the Earth that is very difficult to get to,” Bontempi said. “We wound up making a discovery that hopefully will help researchers and resource managers better understand the Arctic.”
The ice is melting rapidly in the area and the result may have a profound influence on the fishing industry.
During the course of their data gathering, NASA scientists found blooming phytoplankton in abundance. In fact, the area where the marine life was found stretches over a distance of 60 miles.
“If someone had asked me before the expedition whether we would see under-ice blooms, I would have told them it was impossible,” said Kevin Arrigo of Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., leader of the ICESCAPE mission and lead author of the new study. “This discovery was a complete surprise.”
The implications of this new life in an unexpected area of the arctic is not clear.
Much more work to be done:
Scientists will continue to study their findings and monitor other wild life to see if there will be an effect from the newly formed plant life in this most unexpected place.
The discovery of these previously unknown under-ice blooms also has implications for the broader Arctic ecosystem, including migratory species such as whales
and birds. Phytoplankton are eaten by small ocean animals, which are eaten by larger fish and ocean animals. A change in the timeline of the blooms can cause disruptions for larger animals that feed either on phytoplankton or on the creatures that eat these microorganisms. “It could make it harder and harder for migratory species to time their life cycles to be in the Arctic when the bloom is at its peak,” Arrigo said. “If their food supply is coming earlier, they might be missing the boat.”
Bontempi believes the discovery also may have major implications for the global carbon cycle and the ocean’s energy balance. “The discovery certainly indicates we need to revise our understanding of the ecology of the Arctic and the region’s role in the Earth system,” Bontempi said.