A leading scientist has warned that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may affect microbial life and deplete a major food source from sea. Dr Ian Joint from Plymouth Marine Laboratory suggested if microscopic plants eaten by fish are affected by carbon dioxide, this might reduce a major food source from the sea, as fish provides almost a fifth of the animal protein eaten by man
Dr Joint has been studying and sequencing DNA of different ocean bacteria to find out how they would react to an increase in carbon dioxide.
"So far from one experiment we have sequenced 300 million bases of DNA, about one tenth the size of the human genome. We are analyzing this 'ocean genome' to see if changes might affect the productivity of the sea," he said.
He added that bacteria still controls the world, ensuring the fertility of the planet and the non-accumulation of toxic materials
"There are many millions of different bacteria in the ocean. They control the cycling of oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and sulphur; microbes in the sea generate half of the oxygen produced globally every year," he said.
"Bacteria made the earth suitable for animals by producing oxygen nearly 2 billion years ago. We want to find out if human activities will have a major impact on microbial life in the seas and if this is likely to be a problem for mankind in the future," he added.
Dr Joint also said that carbon dioxide produced by humans is turning the oceans into weak acids.
And this century, the seas will be more acidic than they have been for 20 million years, he warned.