Indicator : indicator-ocean-chlorophyll-concentrations-2021

Indicator: Ocean Chlorophyll Concentrations

2021 indicator

Key Points: - Some of the highest average chlorophyll concentrations are located near continental coasts of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. About the Indicator: Phytoplankton are microscopic, floating, plant-like organisms that live in oceans, lakes, and rivers. Phytoplankton form the base of the marine food web, converting solar energy into organic matter (primary production). This process ultimately feeds the world’s fish, sea birds, marine mammals, and humans. Because phytoplankton use photosynthetic pigments like chlorophyll to convert solar energy into organic matter, the amount of phytoplankton present in the ocean can be assessed by measuring chlorophyll concentrations. When phytoplankton populations are large, the color of the water appears greener because of high concentrations of chlorophyll. Phytoplankton populations, as indicated by chlorophyll concentrations, respond to both seasonal (short-term) and climatic (long-term) changes. Primary production by phytoplankton can be affected indirectly by climatic factors, such as changes in water temperatures and surface winds, which affect mixing within the water column and the availability of nutrients. Changes in cloud cover, which can reduce or increase solar energy available for photosynthesis, can also affect primary production. The chlorophyll concentration data shown here were obtained from global satellite measurements by the SeaWiFS and MODIS-Aqua projects of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Satellite data collection allows for large spatial coverage and frequent measurements over time, which is useful for assessing long-term changes. One limitation, however, is that satellites can only measure near-surface chlorophyll concentrations, thus potentially underestimating the total amount of phytoplankton present at all water depths. Chlorophyll concentrations also do not provide information on the composition of phytoplankton communities (for example, the abundance of larger versus smaller species). Why It’s Important: - Changes in phytoplankton populations may impact fish and other marine life, which can affect economic productivity and food availability. - Decision makers can use this indicator to understand the health and productivity of marine ecosystems that depend on phytoplankton.

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