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Web Feature: Scientists Solve Mystery of Ocean Plants
 
Using a new technique, scientists have now determined the nutrients that limit the growth of ocean algae, or phytoplankton, and this affects world climate. They've also discovered that a lack of iron gives algae a "false" healthy appearance.

Phytoplankton, microscopic ocean plants, are an important part of the ocean food chain, and by knowing what limits their growth, scientists can better understand how ecosystems respond to climate change.

Briefing Participants: (Click on name for bio)

-- Michael J. Behrenfeld, Ocean plant ecologist, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore.,
-- Paula Bontempi, Ocean Biology and Biogeochemistry Program Scientist, NASA Headquarters, Washington
-- Scott Doney, Senior Scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, Mass.
-- Oscar Schofield, Associate Professor, Aquatic Biology, Rutgers University

The study focused on the tropical Pacific Ocean, which is an area of the ocean that plays a particularly important role in regulating atmospheric carbon dioxide and the world's climate. This study also solved the mystery why healthy looking phytoplankton are actually not so healthy. An article on this technique appears in the Aug. 31 issue of Nature.

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