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Ocean Microbe Communities Changing, but Long-Term Environmental Impact Is Unclear

As oceans warm due to climate change, water layers will mix less and affect the microbes and plankton that pump carbon out of the atmosphere – but researchers say it’s still unclear whether these processes will further increase global warming or decrease it.

But inadequate ocean monitoring and lack of agreement on how to assess microbial diversity has made it difficult to reach a consensus on what the future may hold, they said.

“We’re just beginning to understand microbial diversity in the oceans and what that may mean to the environment,” said Stephen Giovannoni, an OSU professor of microbiology. “However, a large portion of the carbon emitted from human activities ends up in the oceans, which with both their mass of water and biological processes act as a huge buffer against climate change.

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