“Part of NASA’s mission is pioneering scientific discovery, and this is like finding the Amazon rainforest in the middle of the Mojave Desert,” Findings raise serious concern for marine life.
Contributed by Roy Denish
An expedition in the deep waters of the Arctic by NASA scientists has revealed startling biological plant life that may affect the marine life.
The discovery, termed “rainforest in the middle of the desert,” includes waters richer than in microscopic marine plants than any ocean region on earth, a study conducted over the period of two years has revealed.
“The finding reveals a new consequence of the Arctic’s warming climate and provides an important clue to understanding the impacts of a changing climate and environment on the Arctic Ocean and its ecology. The discovery was made during a NASA oceanographic expedition in the summers of 2010 and 2011,” a statement from NASA said. The revelation came when scientists drilled a three-foot-thick ice in the Arctic waters of Beaufort and Chukchi seas along Alaska’s western and northern coasts on a U.S coast guard icebreaker under the codename “ICESCAPE.”
“The discovery was like finding the Amazon rainforest in the middle of the Mojave desert,” said NASA’s ocean biology and biogeochemistry program manager Paula Bontempi. “We embarked on ICESCAPE to validate our satellite ocean-observing data in an area of the Earth that is very difficult to get to,” Bontempi said. “We wound up making a discovery that hopefully will help researchers and resource managers better understand the Arctic,” she added.
The plants called phytoplankton, are the base of the marine food chain. Phytoplankton were thought to grow in the Arctic Ocean only after sea ice had retreated for the summer. Scientists now think that the thinning Arctic ice is allowing sunlight to reach the waters under the sea ice, catalyzing the plant blooms where they had never been observed. The findings were published today in the journal Science.
During the July 2011 Chukchi Sea leg of ICESCAPE, the researchers observed blooms beneath the ice that extended from the sea-ice edge to 72 miles into the ice pack. Ocean current data revealed that these blooms developed under the ice and had not drifted there from open water, where phytoplankton concentrations can be high., the statement said.