Stuff: Vast plankton bloom off New Zealand

A huge bloom of phytoplankton has been spotted off the east coast of New Zealand by satellite photography.

The photos were released by NASA on October 25, and show how the differing types of phytoplankton (plankton which photosynthesize) change the way the sea reflects light, resulting in differing shades of blue and green.  The bloom, caused by the mixing of cold and warmer waters, will disperse naturally over time.

An excerpt: (read in full here)

“Especially bright blue areas may indicate the presence of phytoplankton called coccolithophores, which are coated with calcium-carbonate (chalk) scales that are very reflective. The duller greenish-brown areas of the bloom may be diatoms, which have a silica-based covering.

“In addition to their importance as the foundation of the ocean food web, phytoplankton play a key role in the climate because, like plants on land, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. When they die, they sink to the ocean floor where the carbon they took from the atmosphere is stored for thousands of years.”