PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — The warming of the waters off the East Coast has come at an invisible, but very steep cost — the loss of microscopic organisms that make up the base of the ocean’s food chain.
The growing warmth and saltiness of the Gulf of Maine off New England is causing a dramatic decrease in the production of phytoplankton, according to Maine-based scientists who recently reported results of a yearslong, NASA-funded study. Phytoplankton, sometimes described as an “invisible forest,” are tiny plant-like organisms that serve as food for marine life.
The scientists found that phytoplankton are about 65% less productive in the Gulf of Maine, part of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by New England and Canada, than they were two decades ago. The Gulf of Maine has emerged as one of the fastest warming sections of the world’s oceans.