NUI Galway Book Takes Pulse of the Ocean

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

29 November 2006: On 05 December, the first Irish book to catalogue a particular species of microscopic plant, known as phytoplankton, will be launched by The Martin Ryan Institute, NUI Galway. Microscopic phytoplankton are essential to maintaining life in the oceans, producing over 99% of organic matter in the seas, and this new book focuses on one of the more conspicuous types, Ceratium. The authors claim that cataloging, researching and monitoring numbers of such micro-organisms is like "taking the pulse" of the oceans and will act as a first warning system for changes to ocean currents brought on by climate change.

'The Dinoflagellate Genus Ceratium in Irish Shelf Seas', by Dr. Robin Raine, NUI Galway, and Dr. Georgina McDermott, Environmental Protection Agency, will be launched by Mícheál Ó Cinnéide of the Irish Marine Institute on Tuesday, at 4.30pm, in the Martin Ryan Institute.

The book summarises research carried out over the past seven years on the distribution in Irish Shelf Seas of phytoplankton. This is highly relevant as the changes in ocean circulation which have been forecast if global warming continues to increase would first be observed in changes in the composition of the plankton. For example, the distribution of the more exotic, tropical species which are found around the southwest of Ireland, where warm oceanic waters from the south bathe the Irish coastline, would change with a shift in the pattern of ocean currents.

According to Dr. Robin Raine, "A changing climate will modify ocean circulation and hence the distribution of phytoplankton. Cataloging the distribution of phytoplankton around Ireland is like taking the pulse of the oceans. As long as the different species remain in constant numbers in specific areas, this means that the ocean currents are not yet changing. We must remain alert however; any change in the numbers of these organisms could mean that we are but a few years away from more cataclysmic climate changes".

The book profiles an individual marine phytoplankton, the dinoflagellate genus Ceratium, and provides guidance on the identification and distribution of 22 species of this conspicuous genus. It contains useful figures and photographs which will be of interest to students and academics working in this area.

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