Looks like phytoplankton, things that eat them and things that breathe are likely to suffer from climate change. According to recent NASA research published in the journal Nature, phytoplankton do not fare well when the water heats up even a few degrees.

From the ABC News article:

In a "sneak peak" revealing a grim side effect of future warmer seas, new NASA satellite data find that the vital base of the ocean food web shrinks when the world's seas get hotter.

And that discovery has scientists worried about how much food marine life will have as global warming progresses.


Phytoplankton are the microscopic plant life that zooplankton and other marine animals eat, essentially the grain crop of the world's oceans.

But wait, that's not the really bad news. The really bad news is...

Another worry is that with reduced phytoplankton, the world's oceans will suck up less carbon dioxide, increasing the Earth's chief global warming gas, said NASA ocean biology project manager Paula Bontempi. That's because phytoplankton take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere in making food.

The UK Independent even ran the story with the alarming headline, "Climate change is killing the oceans' microscopic 'lungs'", saying:

Despite their small size, phytoplankton account for about half of the photosynthesis carried out by all plants on Earth. And phytoplankton have a high turnover because they are quickly eaten by small marine animals - making them even more vulnerable to climate change.

To clarify though, the study does NOT say anything about us running short on oxygen. The point is that these tiny plants not only support the marine food chain, but also are important for scrubbing global warming CO2 out of our atmosphere.

Still, every second breath we take comes from the oceans. So take a deep breath, then do something.