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“Seeing Green”- Algae Pools Spotted in Antarctica
By Joseph Tepper, March 2, 2011 @ 09:00 AM (EST)
Source: National Geographic

Bright-green pools of algae have been spotted by scientists in a remote section of the Antarctic Sea, marking a remarkable proliferation of life that “exceeds all expectations.”

Initially observed by scientists working in the Amundsen Sea, the brilliant green color of the blooms is the result of chlorophyl, a pigment common in phytoplankton, algae, as well as land plants. The result of such a bloom is a nutrient-rich oasis called a polynya (an area of water that is seasonally surrounded by ice), which attracts algae-hungry zooplankton, krill, and a variety of fish life.

"Bottom line, the satellite can just see the surface—can only see where the ice is not," notes Patricia Yager, chief scientist for the Amundsen Sea Polynya International Research Expedition (ASPIRE). "That's not the whole story."

Indeed, it is not. As the summer ice melts, it releases 'micronutrients' like iron -elements essential for plant-like growth- and supercharges the resulting algae bloom. What's more, algae-rich polynyas like the one seen in the Amundsen Sea have the potential to trap in carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

With Earth Day right around the corner in April, this carbon-munching algae bloom has scientists 'seeing green' in more than one way.




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