Phytoplankton and the Modern Era: Changes with Consequences
The deterioration of aquatic ecosystems has become a major concern across the globe. The oceans are acidifying and getting warmer, rivers and lakes are aging more quickly, and previously flourishing species are disappearing and being replaced by other, often very undesirable, species instead.
How should we measure and respond to these changes? How should we change our practices to limit our impact on aquatic ecosystems? These are the questions that Yannick Huot is tackling as the Canada Research Chair in Earth Observation and Phytoplankton Ecophysiology.
Huot hopes to find answers to these questions by focusing on phytoplankton—the microscopic organisms that are the foundation of the biological production of aquatic ecosystems. Like terrestrial plants, phytoplankton captures solar energy and becomes food for animals. Thus all marine animals, from the tiniest shrimp to the blue whale, need phytoplankton to live.
Huot’s wide-ranging research activities take him from the laboratory (where he studies the physiology of key aquatic system species) to the oceans (where he uses satellite imagery to make observations of the distribution and growth of the microscopic organisms concerned). His goal is to generate models of the target systems in order to identify the key factors of which we need to gain an understanding, and predict changes in those factors.
The results of the research conducted by Huot and his team will yield a deeper understanding of the effect of human disturbances on the aquatic environment and help establish a reliable scientific basis for developing watershed management policy.