Ocean Science

A Shipping Forecast

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Science  29 Apr 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5722, pp. 603
DOI: 10.1126/science.308.5722.603d

Phytoplankton are responsible for 45% of plant primary production and absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. From 1997 to 2002, the satellite-based Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) collected global data on the distribution of chlorophyll a, a measure of phytoplankton concentration; however, this data set is too short to provide insights into decadal changes in phytoplankton.

Raitsos et al. have turned therefore to measurements of the phytoplankton color index, which have been collected since 1931 along shipping routes in the North Sea and the North Atlantic and which have used a consistent sampling and measurement methodology since 1948. The authors demonstrate a significant correlation between the two data sets from 1997 to 2002 and then use this correlation to retrospectively calculate monthly changes in chlorophyll a concentrations since 1948. The results show a marked increase in chlorophyll a in the mid-1980s, a time when the composition and productivity of the regional ecosystem are known to have changed. This data set will be useful for biogeochemical and climate modeling studies that aim to understand the links between marine biology and climate. — JFU

Geophys. Res. Lett. 32, 10.1029/2005GL022484 (2005).

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