Fanny Monteiro wrote a lovely review of the life history of the coccolithophore plankton, some of the most beautiful microscopic creatures that fill our oceans with photosynthetic CO2-loving life. It’s here:
In her words, “Calcifying marine phytoplankton—coccolithophores— are some of the most successful yet enigmatic organisms in the ocean… To better understand [them], we need to know “why” coccolithophores calcify. We review coccolithophorid evolutionary history and cell biology as well as insights from recent experiments to provide a critical assessment of the costs and benefits of calcification. We conclude that calcification has high energy demands and that coccolithophores might have calcified initially to reduce grazing pressure but that additional benefits such as protection from photodamage and viral/bacterial attack further explain their high diversity and broad spectrum ecology.”
Beauty of living organisms does not of course exempt them from becoming pawns in politicised science, especially the necrophile death cult of global warming (looking at life they see only death). So inevitably, talk of coccolithophores turns from being a celebration of their vibrant adaptations to life to a baleful litany of how they can be expected to be harmed by CO2. In two ways – by warming of the “pu-lanet” and (idiotically) by “acidification” of the ocean. Indeed Monteiro had to intone such a dismal prospect so that the journal inquisitors would publish her paper.
Those inquisitors were clearly too stupid to see the hilarious contradiction in the paper itself: coccolithophores prefer it hot. Take a look at figure 1a (below). Originating in the mid Triassic, maximum species abundance came near the end Cretaceous, declining sharply with the dinosaur extinction meteor event. Over the cooling Tertiary era since then coccolithophore species richness declined with temperature, becoming scarcer with the cooling oceans and climate. The brief warming spike of the PETM (Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum) – another oft-toted warming disaster – was great for the coccolithophores causing their numbers and richness to spike with the temperature.
So what doom and disaster awaits coccolithphores in a balefully “warming world”. The answer provided by Fanny Monteiro’s nice review is that coccolithophores will increase in species richness and abundance with rising temperatures (and ocean “acidification”) all the way back to Mesozoic temperatures 10 degrees C warmer than today.