Microscopic plankton that not only thrive in the low-oxygen environment of the Lake Erie Dead Zone, but actually contribute oxygen to their surroundings, have been found by Ohio Sea Grant researchers Drs. George Bullerjahn and Michael McKay, both biologists at Bowling Green State University, and Dr. Steve Wilhelm, a biologist at the University of Tennessee.
Although minute, this group of plant-like organisms plays a big role in chlorophyll and photosynthesis. "This particular picoplankton, Synechococcus, comprises upwards of 50% of the total chlorophyll in the Great Lakes and can also be performing up to half of the photosynthesis that occurs off-shore," notes McKay.
This new information can play a key role in developing more accurate ecosystem models. "This Synechococcus community is highly active in photosynthesis in a part of Lake Erie that is typically not considered very productive," explains Bullerjahn. "There may be more nutrient recycling to other organisms going on in the Central Basin than we previously believed." Their research has the potential to revolutionize science’s thinking regarding productivity of large lakes, including everything from oxygen sources to human use of the fisheries.
Twine Line article:
Ohio Sea Grant Communications