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Phytoplankton and Their Role in Primary, New, and Export Production

  • Paul G. Falkowski
  • Edward A. Laws
  • Richard T. Barber
  • James W. Murray
Part of the Global Change — The IGBP Series (closed) book series (GLOBALCHANGE)

Abstract

Phytoplankton have played key roles in shaping Earth's biogeochemistry and contemporary human economy, yet because the human experience is so closely tied to higher plants as sources of food, fiber, and fuel, the role of phytoplankton in our everyday lives is often over-looked. The most familiar phytoplankton products we consume are petroleum and natural gas. Their uses as fuels, and in its myriad refined forms, as plastics, dyes, and chemical feedstocks are so critical to the industrialized world that wars are fought over the ownership of these fossilized hydrocarbons. Since the beginning of civilization, we have used the remains of calcareous nanoplankton, deposited over millions of years in ancient ocean basins, for building materials. Diatomaceous oozes are mined as additives for reflective paints, polishing materials, abrasives, and for insulation. Phytoplankton provided the original source of oxygen for our planet, without which our very existence would not have been possible. The fossil organic carbon, skeletal remains, and oxygen are the cumulative remains of phytoplankton export production that has occurred uninterrupted for over 3 billion years in the upper ocean (Falkowski et al. 1998). In this chapter we examine what we learned during the JGOFS era about how phytoplankton impact contemporary biogeochemical cycles and their role in shaping Earth's geochemical history.

Keywords

Particulate Organic Carbon Euphotic Zone Export Flux Ocean Interior North Pacific Subtropical Gyre 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul G. Falkowski
    • 1
  • Edward A. Laws
    • 2
  • Richard T. Barber
    • 3
  • James W. Murray
    • 4
  1. 1.Institute of Marine and Coastal Science and Department of Geology RutgersThe State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.Department of OceanographyUniversity of Hawaii at ManoaHonoluluUSA
  3. 3.Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth ScienceDuke UniversityBeaufortUSA
  4. 4.School of OceanographyUniversity of WashingtonSeattle, WashingtonUSA

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