Let's Talk About Climate Change: Here are Miniature Worlds for a "Simplier" Explanation

Khryss | Published 2017-05-13 20:06
Climate change is happening. And as of its possible impact in the future, a team of Australian scientists did a simulation on miniature ecosystems for that. “If you just take one fish and put it in a tank and see how it responds to temperature, you can imagine that’s a huge simplification of reality,” said Ivan Nagelkerken, an ecologist at the University of Adelaide and is leading the study. But it's undeniable that nature is extremely diverse and has so many different species interacting with each other. “In nature you have all this complexity, and you never know which factor is really causing the outcome you’re observing," he added. And so, the researchers created a happy medium. Dr. Nagelkerken and his colleagues filled 12 pools with 475 gallons of seawater and a simple ocean ecosystem each. These small-scale ecosystems, called mesocosms, have rocks and sand on the bottom of the pools, with artificial sea grass where algae could grow, filled with different invertebrates that eat the algae and a small fish named the Southern longfin goby, that feeds on invertebrates (good ol' food chain). With these, they then created four different settings. The first three mesocosms had its water's temperature raised by 5 degrees. Other three were pumped with carbon dioxide  but were kept on average ocean temperatures and had another three with CO2 as well but with a higher water temperature. They then left the three last pools unchanged to serve as a control group. Results showed that the carbon dioxide gas benefited the pools, making the algae grow faster, consequently providing more food for the invertebrates and then more food to the fish. However, when combined with warmer waters, such benefits were gone. The algae provided less nutrition due to the higher temperatures. The warm water might've also stressed the invertebrates. The fish got hungrier and hungrier as well due to the warm water speeding up its metabolism. Overall, this made the ecosystem collapse. “As you go further higher up the food web, you get more of a mismatch between the need for food and the availability of food,” Dr. Nagelkerken said. With the number of people still debunking climate change, I hope this data would be replicated to raise more awareness and to show the need to act on this immediately. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/11/science/climate-change-simulation-miniature-world.html?rref=collection%2Fsectioncollection%2Fscience&_r=1
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