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Phytoplankton
By Filip, Age 10, Stony Brook, NY, USA

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To learn about phytoplankton,  scroll down or click on the topics below.

(When your done reading click here to play a game to test your knowledge.)

 

What are phytoplankton ?
Understanding the basics of plankton and phytoplankton.
How do phytoplankton live?
What do phytoplankton do when they die?
How do phytoplankton effect global climate?
What percentage of marine plants are phytoplankton?
Does the ozone layer effect phytoplankton or any other plankton?
Closing


What are phytoplankton ?

Phytoplankton are microscopic plants that live in the ocean. These small plants are very important to the ocean and to the whole planet! They are at the base of the food chain. Many small fish and whales eat them. Then bigger fish eat the little fish, etc. The food chain continues and at some point in time we (people) come into it when we eat the fish. So the energy of plankton  becomes our energy too!

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Understanding the basics of plankton and phytoplankton.

The name plankton comes from the Greek word planktos meaning wanderers. There are two types of plankton - phytoplankton, and zooplankton.

Phytoplankton are plant plankton. Zooplankton are animal plankton. Phytoplankton include seaweed and algae. Phytoplankton are mostly made up of diatoms and dinoflagellates. Diatoms are microscopic, single celled plants covered by two shells that look glossy! Dinoflagellates are tiny plants with white shells all over them. The shells have a whip like motion that allows the phytoplankton to move. Those are the types of phytoplankton that are in our sea and we must protect them a lot!!

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How do phytoplankton live?

Phytoplankton live near the surface of the ocean because they need sunlight like all green plants. They also need water and nutrients to live. Phytoplankton use water and CO2 to grow, but phytoplankton still need other vitamins and minerals, like iron to survive.

When the surface of the ocean is cold, the deeper parts of the ocean bring these nutrients to the surface and the plankton live. But, when the surface of the ocean is warm, as in El Niņo, the ocean does not bring as many of these essential nutrients and the phytoplankton die. That causes a major problem because phytoplankton are at the base of the food chain. So, when the population of phytoplankton is reduced almost the entire food chain is effected.

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What do phytoplankton do when they die?

When phytoplankton die they drop to the bottom of the ocean!

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How do phytoplankton effect global climate?

As I said before phytoplankton use CO2 for survival, which means that the more phytoplankton there are, the more CO2 will be sucked out of the air. When there is less CO2 in the air, the temperature is going to be lower! When there is a smaller population of phytoplankton there is more CO2 in the air. This leads to higher temperatures.

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What percentage of marine plants are phytoplankton?

Did you know that 90% of the marine plants are phytoplankton?

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Does the ozone layer effect phytoplankton or any other plankton?

Yes. Scientists believe that the sun’s  radiation in the Arctic and Antarctic is killing off many species of plankton including phytoplankton. They die because phytoplankton are extremely sensitive to the sun’s radiation.

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Closing

Phytoplankton are very important to life and humans should always protect them.

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Thank You


Click here to play a game to test your knowledge of Phytoplankton.


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Bibliography

Herring, David. What are Phytoplankton ?. NASA's Earth Observatory Website http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Library/Phytoplankton/. 1999.

Svarney, Thomas E. & Svarney, Patricia Barnes. Handy Ocean Answer Book. New York: Visible Ink Press, 2000.

Images

NASA's Earth Observatory Website http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Library/Phytoplankton/. 1999.

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