Who likes to breathe?

Who remembers school biology? Hopefully most of us remember that animals, including us, breathe oxygen.  Even fish take it out of the water through their gills.  Plants create oxygen through the process of photosynthesis where they take CO2 from the atmosphere along with sunlight and water to create energy for them to grow. The by-product of this process is the oxygen we breathe.

The little fact I had forgotten was that over 50% of the oxygen that we breathe is created by one little single cell plant that lives in our oceans, phytoplankton.  It’s also the bottom of the food chain in the ocean, herbivores eat it, and then the carnivores eat the herbivores, then the bigger carnivores eat the littler ones and so on up to the top.  It’s a pretty dang important little plant.  The rest of the oxygen is created by all the other plants on land, trees, shrubs, grass.

So with these little plants being so important to us and our oceans, anything that puts them under threat is pretty scary.  These little guys take their CO2 out of the ocean, not the air. The oceans themselves absorb ~30% of the CO2 from the atmosphere.  That means as we add more CO2, the oceans absorb more.  Yay to the oceans taking up our extra CO2!  Sounds great but the rising CO2 levels in our oceans is resulting in the oceans becoming more acidic.  (Queue a chemistry lesson here).

Why is an acidic ocean a bad thing? Unfortunately, having a more acidic ocean means that certain types of organisms in the ocean can’t form their shells which results in them being smaller and more fragile. Coral, shellfish and of course our buddy phytoplankton are just these types of organisms.

So the end result, the more we pump CO2 into the air, the more we are damaging our largest oxygen creator.  I don’t know about you, but I like to breathe.  This is just one of the affects of climate change, along with rising sea levels etc.  

Changing our fuel sources away from fossil fuels will reduce the amount of CO2 we are pumping up there so we definitely need to move to cleaner energy supplies.  But in addition to this, we need a way to pull down what is already there and store it elsewhere, away from our phytoplankton friends..  We can definitely plant more trees to assist but another option that many of us haven’t heard of is soil carbon sequestration… very simply put we can store the carbon from CO2 in soil which will not only take it from our atmosphere but also grow healthier plants.  Pretty exciting stuff and there is much more to come on this…

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