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Lecture16_OceanNutrients - Phytoplankton Bottom of the...

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EAS 1600 Introduction to Environmental Sciences ____________________________ Class17 - The Ocean Nutrient Cycle ____________________________ Our discussions of the ocean have thus far focused on so- called “physical oceanography” with a little “chemical oceanography” thrown in. Today our discussions focus on “marine biology” with little more “chemical oceanography” thrown in ... Phytoplankton: Bottom of the ocean’s food chain ¾ plankton: organisms that float freely in aquatic waters ¾ phytoplankton ( algae ): plankton that are green plants (i.e. that carry out photosynthesis) ¾ As opposed to zooplankton that do not carry out photosynthesis and consume phytoplankton) Q uick review PHOTOSYNTHESIS: the process by which green plants use sunlight to make organic material by combining water and carbon dioxide and in the process make oxygen: CO 2 + H 2 O + sunlight Æ organic material + O 2 RESPIRATION AND/OR DECAY: the reverse of photosynthesis organic material + O 2 Æ CO 2 + H 2 O + ? Note: The combination of photosyntehsis and respiration/decay represent a “closed chemical cycle” in that no chemical is consumed or generated. Does anything happen as a result of the cycle? The precarious life of phytoplankton: To survive phytoplankton need sunlight to carry out photosynthesis. But sufficient sunlight only penetrates to a depth of ~ 100 m (about the same as the depth of the surface ocean) The layer of the ocean with sufficient light to allow photo- synthesis to occur is called the photic zone .”
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