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Clayoquot Sound bacteria 'communicate' to co-ordinate feeding times, researchers find

It's perhaps the most fiercely contested ecosystem in Canadian history. And now British Columbia's Clayoquot Sound has proven to have such a rich mix of biological material at the interface of land and sea that it's helped an international team of scientists gain a new understanding of the planet's carbon cycle.

After a summer spent probing the sound's waters along the west coast of Vancouver Island, researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute in Massachusetts found the first clear evidence that bacteria are engaging in "chemical conversations" to co-ordinate feeding activity on decomposing plankton and other biological material as it sinks through the water column.

The finding, published recently in the journal Environmental Microbiology Reports, was made possible partly because Clayoquot Sound offers an ideal natural laboratory — one brimming with organic activity as Pacific Ocean tides stir up nutrients in coastal fiords — to observe the bacterial "communication" and its effect on decreasing the amount of carbon that becomes trapped on the ocean bottom.

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