Climate Trivia: Ocean Phytoplankton or Land Plants?
Plants take carbon out of the air and combine it with water to build their bodies, releasing oxygen as a bi-product, which sustains animals and humans. On land, plants like trees, grasses and shrubs, do most of the carbon uptake while in the oceans most of the job is done by microscopic, photosynthetic organisms called phytoplankton.
Trivia Question: On a global scale, which takes up more carbon each year?
a) Land Plants
b) Ocean Phytoplankton
The correct answer is a, although not by much. The world’s land plants collectively weigh about 500 billion tons and about 50 billion tons of new plant matter grow every year. The phytoplankton collectively only weigh about one billion tons at any given time, but reproduce about once a week, meaning that each year Earth grows about 45 billion tons of phytoplankton. Both land plants and phytoplankton are critical to maintaining Earth’s carbon cycle and atmosphere.
Seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
Source: Falkowski, P. “The power of plankton.” Nature 483 (2012): S17-S20.