Wildfires can boost Phytoplankton Production in tropical oceans

Jay Kakade
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Wildfire
Wildfire (Image Credit: Pixabay)

Wildfire is considered to be a negative word, stating devastating loss to environment and habitat of wild animals.

But according to the recent studies published in Nature, reveal that the wildfires can enhance phytoplankton production in tropical oceans.

Phytoplankton are the primary producers of marine ecosystem, producing half of the biosphere’s net production.

Global warming has significantly large impact on marine phytoplankton production by triggering cyclones, upwelling and promoting rainfall.


Global warming impacts nutrient distribution of upper ocean, reducing vertical mixture of surface layer.

Marine Primary Production (MPP) is higher in tropics rather than high latitudes, still how MPP is affected at different latitudes is not clear.

Wildfire – A factor enhancing marine production

Other than the global warming and physical processes in marine ecosystem, wildfire is a factor that is ignored.

The emissions of wildfire such as ash is rich in elements like, nitrogen, phosphate and iron.

Particles like ash produced during wildfires are carried out to oceans by rivers.

These particles are 62% of the global annual emission of organic materials from biofuel burning.

Though their contribution is vital, the effect of wildfires on oceans is less understood.

Northern Australia have seen severe wildfires in savanna region. During wildfires of 2019-2020, 21% of the forests of Australia were burned.


But the destruction of wildfires saw increase in Marine Primary Production through atmospheric deposition and river waters.

Author of the study said, “The importance of wildfire on marine phytoplankton production is statistically higher than that of tropical cyclones and rainfall, when strong El NiƱo Southern Oscillation coincides with the positive phase of Indian Ocean Dipole.”

“Findings from this study suggest that the role of additional nutrients from wildfires has to be considered when projecting impacts of global warming on marine phytoplankton production.”

References
  • Liu, D., Zhou, C., Keesing, J.K. et al. Wildfires enhance phytoplankton production in tropical oceans. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-022-29013-0
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