How Microscopic Organisms Control Ocean Health
Marine microbes have been around for billions of years and are the most abundant and diverse group of organisms in the ocean. They are responsible for half of the Earth’s primary production and for the recycling of such chemicals as carbon, oxygen and nitrogen in the ocean.
However, marine ecosystems are now subjected to unprecedented rapid changes caused by human activity. Microbes will adapt to new environmental conditions, but what impact will changing microbial communities have on marine ecosystems and on us?
Dr. Julie LaRoche, Canada Research Chair in Marine Microbial Genomics and Biogeochemistry, is developing and applying a variety of approaches to research how marine microbes and biochemical processes are affected by global change.
For example, warmer, more acidic and less oxygenated oceans have already had an impact on ocean biota (combined flora and fauna), from microbial communities to fish. LaRoche aims to discover whether the new state of the oceans will lead to a decrease in microbial diversity or a rise in noxious species, with their associated detrimental effects on ecosystem health.
LaRoche’s research will lead to improved detection systems to monitor the overall diversity and function of microbial communities in the oceans. Her work will help maintain human and environment health in the face of unprecedented global climate change.