There is no evidence that elevated methane levels have a direct impact on planktonic foraminifera and sea snails in the Barents Sea, according to a recent study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences.
Text: Maja Sojtaric
First author of the study is PhD candidate Siri Ofstad from CAGE Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate. The main finding is that there is a seasonal variation in plektonic populations in the Arctic ocean: Planktonic foraminifera and sea snail numbers swell from April to June in the Bjørnøyrenna area of the Barents Sea. The organisms, however, do not appear to be affected directly by high methane levels from the huge blow-out craters in the area.
The study was highlighted in Science News by AGU. The article points out that methane seepage may still have an effect: “The researchers hypothesize that increased levels of methane could enhance primary production in the water column indirectly by, for example, carrying nutrients toward the ocean surface or increasing carbon dioxide levels in the water”
“We are flattered that they chose to highlight this seasonal study on marine calcifiers at the Bjørnøyrenna crater area,» says Siri Ofstad.
“Although we did not find a spatial or geochemical link between methane and the calcifiers, we believe there should be more research focusing on how methane affects the plankton community and trophic interactions.”
Reference: Ofstad, S., et.al., Development, productivity, and seasonality of living planktonic foraminiferal faunas and Limacina helicina in an area of intense methane seepage in the Barents Sea. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences. https://doi.org/10.1029/2019JG005387