Ocean 'blooms' Start in Winter, Not Spring

CORVALLIS, Ore., July 21 (UPI) — Ocean blooms of microscopic organisms that anchor the aquatic food chain start in winter, not during the heat and longer days of spring, scientists say.

Scientists have long believed microscopic plant-like organisms called phytoplankton bloomed in temperate oceans as the spring sunshine heated surface waters, but new research says the explosive “blooms” have their beginnings in winter, LiveScience.com reported Wednesday.

“The old theory made common sense and seemed to explain what people were seeing,” Michael Behrenfeld, an Oregon State University botanist says. “But now we have satellite remote sensing technology that provides us with a much more comprehensive view of the oceans on literally a daily basis.”

Frequent and intense winter storms cause deep cold water to mix with biologically rich surface layers, Behrenfeld says, diluting the concentration of both the phytoplankton and the very tiny marine animals called zooplankton that feast on it.

With the phytoplankton harder for zooplankton to find and eat, more of the organisms survive, he says, kick starting a growth curve leading to the massive spring “blooms” that can cover thousands of miles of ocean surface.

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