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Zooplankton Populations Plunge 70 Percent in Four Decades; Alarming Marine Biologists

Thursday, November 13, 2008 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: zooplankton, health news, Natural News

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(NaturalNews) Numbers of zooplankton, tiny organisms that form the base of the ocean's food chain, have plummeted 70 percent since the 1960s, according to numbers collected by the British Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The data were included without further comment in a graph on page nine of DEFRA's 2008-2009 Marine Program Plan. The nonprofit organization Buglife noticed this graph, however, and began sounding the alarm.

"The implications for marine productivity and fisheries are mindboggling," Buglife Scottish officer Craig Macadam said. "The biomass of the seas is (or was!) enormous. This statistic must represent a very significant reduction in the number and weight of living organisms in the UK. Yet there has been no coverage as far as I can see in any British media. I think it would be a good idea for people to be more concerned about invertebrate conservation issues."

Macadam noted that the entire marine food chain rests on zooplankton. A disruption in their populations is therefore expected to affect all ocean life, from fish to sea birds to whales.

"Big fish feed on little fish, so when there is a big decline in the bedrock of the marine food chain it spells trouble all down it," he said.

According to the DEFRA chart, zooplankton levels declined steadily starting in the 1960s and had dropped a full 50 percent by 1990. Since then, there has been another 50 percent drop, for a total of a 73 percent population decrease.

Buglife Director Matt Shardlow has sent a letter to DEFRA Director of Marine and Fisheries Rodney Anderson, applauding the quality of the organization's data but calling on it to take more decisive action.

"The disappearance of butterflies, moths, bees, riverflies and other small animals is an environmental tragedy," Shardlow wrote. "But, despite this experience, we were profoundly shocked to read that zooplankton abundance has declined by about 73 percent since 1960 and about 50 percent since 1990.

"This is a biodiversity disaster of enormous proportions."

Sources for this story include: news.bbc.co.uk; news.scotsman.com.

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