Wednesday, February 16, 2005

C|NET News: Gauging the health of the oceans

Gauging the health of the oceans (Published: February 16, 2005, 5:33 AM PST, By Michael Kanellos, Staff Writer, CNET

A mathematical technique for using satellite images to gauge the growth rate and mass of the ocean's phytoplankton, or plant plankton, could help scientists more fully understand the food cycles of the oceans, as well as global climate change, researchers say.

The new approach--devised by researchers with NASA; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and other institutions--involves studying the "greenness" and brightness of phytoplankton from satellite images. Computers take the data from the images, and then try to mathematically determine the levels of phytoplankton and the rate of reproduction taking place.

You may recall from high school biology that plankton are the bottom of the food chain. Thus the overall health of us depends on the presence of plankton in the ocean, and anything that restricts their presence will eventually come to bite us in the ass.