SYDNEY, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- Australian scientists on Wednesday said they have recorded for the first time more than 175,000 microbes dwelling in the world's oceans, offering an unprecedented platform to measure the global effects of climate change and human activity.
The microorganisms make up nearly 98 percent of ocean biomass and help keep the marine ecosystem healthy, and are "possibly the most important organisms for maintaining our world as a healthy, inhabitable planet", the University of Newcastle's Dr Mark Brown, who led the research, said in a statement.
The latest findings, which involved eight Australian universities, Commonwealth agencies and research institutes, recorded the unique species of microbes at seven sites around Australia's coastline and into the Southern Ocean to help shed new light on the vast diversity of microbes and their environmental behavior.
The microbes "function in a similar way to organs in a human body. Some microbes act as the lungs of the ocean responsible for gathering and distributing oxygen to the planet, while others act as the gut or liver to detoxify impurities within the water and control the flow of nutrients", said Brown. These "sentinels of change" of the ocean respond rapidly to their environment and a slight change in conditions can dramatically reshape it.
Research co-author Dr Martin Ostrowski, from Macquarie University said the team is now building models to predict the location of the organisms and their specific functions.
"We can now use the baseline data we have collected to make models that tell us how microbes respond to different environmental conditions and how we expect them to change given future climate projections," said Ostrowski of the findings published in journal Scientific Data.
"The primary production and carbon use by marine microbes determines how much food is provided to the rest of the food chain, so our forecasts will be incredibly relevant to scientists but also to industries such as fisheries and tourism."