UCI-led study uses plankton genomes as global biosensors of ocean ecosystem stress

Irvine, Calif., April 15, 2021 — By analyzing gains and losses in the genes of phytoplankton samples collected in all major ocean regions, researchers at the University of California, Irvine have created the most nuanced and high-resolution map yet to show where these photosynthetic organisms either thrive or are forced to adapt to limited quantities of key nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus and iron.

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Rutgers Expert Available to Discuss Viral ‘Pandemics’ in Oceans

New Brunswick, N.J. (April 6, 2021) – Rutgers University–New Brunswick microbial oceanographer Kay D. Bidle is available for interviews on the persistent

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Fishes Contribute Roughly 1.65 Billion Tons of Carbon in Feces and Other Matter Annually

Scientists have little understanding of the role fishes play in the global carbon cycle linked to climate change, but a Rutgers-led study found that carbon in feces, respiration and other excretions from fishes – roughly 1.65 billion tons annually – make up about 16 percent of the total carbon that sinks below the ocean’s upper layers.

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Nuclear War Could Trigger Big El Niño and Decrease Seafood

A nuclear war could trigger an unprecedented El Niño-like warming episode in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, slashing algal populations by 40 percent and likely lowering the fish catch, according to a Rutgers-led study. The research, published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, shows that turning to the oceans for food if land-based farming fails after a nuclear war is unlikely to be a successful strategy – at least in the equatorial Pacific.

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Atmospheric Rivers Help Create Massive Holes in Antarctic Sea Ice

Warm, moist rivers of air in Antarctica play a key role in creating massive holes in sea ice in the Weddell Sea and may influence ocean conditions around the vast continent as well as climate change, according to Rutgers co-authored research. Scientists studied the role of long, intense plumes of warm, moist air – known as atmospheric rivers – in creating enormous openings in sea ice. They focused on the Weddell Sea region of the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, where these sea ice holes (called polynyas) infrequently develop during the winter.

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Gulf of Mexico Mission: ‘Ocean Blue Holes Are Not Created Equal’

Scientists recently got a unique glimpse into the “Green Banana” Blue Hole thanks to gutsy divers and a 500-pound autonomous, benthic lander. Together with hand-picked, elite scuba divers, the research team is unraveling the structure and behavior of these marine environments by examining geochemistry, hydrodynamics, and biology. Findings from this exploration also may have important implications for phytoplankton in the Gulf of Mexico, including blooms of the Florida Red-tide species Karenia brevis.

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Ocean Algae Get “Coup de Grace” from Viruses

Scientists have long believed that ocean viruses always quickly kill algae, but Rutgers-led research shows they live in harmony with algae and viruses provide a “coup de grace” only when blooms of algae are already stressed and dying. The study, published in the journal Nature Communications, will likely change how scientists view viral infections of algae, also known as phytoplankton – especially the impact of viruses on ecosystem processes like algal bloom formation (and decline) and the cycling of carbon and other chemicals on Earth.

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Algae in the Oceans Often Steal Genes from Bacteria

Algae in the oceans often steal genes from bacteria to gain beneficial attributes, such as the ability to tolerate stressful environments or break down carbohydrates for food, according to a Rutgers co-authored study.
The study of 23 species of brown and golden-brown algae, published in the journal Science Advances, shows for the first time that gene acquisition had a significant impact on the evolution of a massive and ancient group of algae and protists (mostly one-celled organisms including protozoa) that help form the base of oceanic food webs.

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Red Algae Thrive Despite Ancestor’s Massive Loss of Genes

You’d think that losing 25 percent of your genes would be a big problem for survival. But not for red algae, including the seaweed used to wrap sushi. An ancestor of red algae lost about a quarter of its genes roughly one billion years ago, but the algae still became dominant in near-shore coastal areas around the world, according to Rutgers University–New Brunswick Professor Debashish Bhattacharya, who co-authored a study in the journal Nature Communications.

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