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13 Functions of the Phytoplankton in Ocean Ecosystem

by Fitriani

Phytoplankton is a type of micro algae. This creature is similar to the other plants in the ocean biome. But what makes it special is the fact that it is the main produce in the food web. The plant is so small that it is impossible to see it with the naked eye.

However, that doesn’t remove the fact that phytoplankton contains a huge amount of chlorophyll. Here are the 13 Function of the Phytoplankton in Ocean Ecosystem. Find out what makes this small plant so crucial to the ocean.

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1. Primary Producers in the Ecosystem

Phytoplankton is the primary produce in the ecosystem. It is a crucial component in the food web. This micro algae carry out photosynthesis using sunlight. They gain a good amount of sunlight from the ocean water surface. Through all this process, they turn the light into useful carbohydrates. The carbohydrates play an important role in feeding some creatures in the food chain. Moreover, some marine animals like to eat phytoplankton.

2. Act as Food to Marine Creatures

As said before, many marine creatures like to feed on phytoplankton. These creatures include the famous jellyfish. Indirectly, phytoplankton also feed fish and huge whales. They consume phytoplankton through other marine creatures according to their level in the food chain.

3. Provide Excess Food

Phytoplankton can provide excess food. The excess food production occurs during photosynthesis. When a phytoplankton carries out photosynthesis, some of the excess energy are released into the ocean. The marine animals will use it as their main diet.

4. Carry Out Most Photosynthetic Activities

Phytoplankton is responsible for carrying out the largest amount of photosynthesis in the ocean. As a result, they help in producing oxygen for the ocean. Thus, other than providing food to the marine animals in the ocean, phytoplankton also supply oxygen to the ocean ecosystem.

5. Serves as Tool to Study Past and Present Environment

There is a type of phytoplankton named as diatom. This micro algae is often used for scientists for various reasons. One of the reasons is to study the condition of the ocean. Specifically, they are using the diatom to study the past and the present environment in the world’s oceans. Through diatom, they are able to tell the difference in the environment condition through all these years.

6. Help in Knowing Water Quality

Other than using phytoplankton to study former and present condition, scientists also use it to study something else. They use phytoplankton to study water quality. Water quality is an important aspect to the ocean. The ocean needs good water quality to maintain a healthy ecosystem. Without a good water quality, our world will suffer too.

Nowadays, water quality in the ocean is impacted by acidification of the ocean and other kinds of ocean pollution. As a result, the water becomes vulnerable to a lot of toxic materials. Knowing how phytoplankton grows in the worsening condition can help us understand the effect of pollution on the water quality.

7. Produce Diatomite

Another type from phytoplankton is a diatom. A diatom has cells made from silica. When the shells are dead, they contribute to the component in the sand on the ocean floor. Thus, the diatomite make the sand in the ocean healthier and have more density.

8. Observe Ocean Water Temperature Changes

Phytoplankton can only produce within a certain condition. This condition include the right temperature. The ocean water must have the perfect and stable temperature. It ensures a healthy reproduction for phytoplankton. Furthermore, a stable reproduction increases the population. But scientists can use this to observe temperature changes in the ocean. When the phytoplankton don’t produce at normal rates then there must be something wrong with the temperature in the ocean.

9. Tell Nutrient Availability in the Ocean

Another factor affecting the phytoplankton reproduction is nutrient. The nutrient in the ocean depends on the temperature though. So when the temperature isn’t right, the nutrient availability may not be enough. Thus, phytoplankton is unable to produce at the right amount. The food chain is disturbed and many marine animals may not get any food source.

10. Main Diet for Larval Fish

Phytoplankton is the main diet for larval fish. The more phytoplankton there are in the ocean, the higher the rate of their survival. The larval fish heavily depends on phytoplankton to stay alive. Without phytoplankton, the fish population may experience a huge decline. In turn, it all affects the food web in the ocean ecosystem.

11. Provide Diet for Zooplankton

Zooplankton feed on phytoplankton. In fact, phytoplankton is their only main diet. When zooplankton eats a phytoplankton, it also provides food to other marine animals. Fish and crustaceans feed on zooplankton. Humans then feed on the fish. The food chain continues in the ocean ecosystem.

12. Maintain Zooplankton Population

Since phytoplankton is the main food source for zooplankton, they are majorly impacting the zooplankton population. If there is ever a depletion in the phytoplankton population, the zooplankton will also experience a decline. So, the food web will suffer from the whole chain of population reduction. Phytoplankton must always carry out healthy number in population in order to maintain the zooplankton population.

13. Maintain the Cycle in the Food Chain

This last function of the phytoplankton also affects the food chain. Phytoplankton heavily responsible to maintain the cycle in the food chain. A good and healthy food chain can only happen with the presence of phytoplankton. Without it, the food chain will experience a major change and the whole ocean ecosystem will experience a negative impact.

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In the end, although phytoplankton is a small plant, it plays a huge role in the ocean ecosystem. It feeds the smallest animals to the biggest ones. Without phytoplankton, the food chain would experience a major degradation. Moreover, we can also lose our source for ocean information without phytoplankton. To keep phytoplankton alive, more efforts need to be done to keep the ocean healthy.

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