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What is marine phytoplankton?

July 22, 2009

Photo of a raw, untreated sample of Dunaliella, grown in outdoor pond

Marine phytoplankton is a collective name for the smallest water plants on earth with a size of about a few 1/1000ths of a millimetre. They are the basis of the food web of all life in our oceans. Phytoplankton doesn’t need to eat to survive. Rather, they synthesize themselves out of elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus and carbon dioxide. As long as there is life on earth, these elements will be available – just like their energy source, sunlight, without which phytoplankton cannot live. Giving off oxygen as waste product and generating freshwater while they are dried, and counteracting global climate change by consuming carbon dioxide, it is easy to agree calling these important organisms our only sustainable solar global engine.

All nutrient and lighting requirements being met, they can easily double their biomass every day. If favorable conditions are created in a reactor, meeting all growth requirements, it is possible to let this ongoing production take place outside the ocean, even independent of the ocean. To put it simply, once such a reactor has been inoculated with a minute amount of a given phytoplankton strain, it is possible to maintain a high production rate of this new resource week after week, month after month – as long as the newly built biomass is harvested.

On an industrial production scale, the activity shall turn deserts green; induce a change of paradigm to produce new global resources, and shall sustain a further peaceful development of mankind.

Marine phytoplankton is an truly sustainable resource. Does it look like a miracle? It shouldn’t. It’s nature.

„Human beings are carrying out a large scale geophysical experiment of a kind that could not have happened in the past nor be produced in the future. Within a few centuries, we are returning to the atmosphere and the oceans the concentrated organic carbon stored in sedimentary rocks over hundreds of million years.”

Revelle, 1957.

„The activity of photosynthetic micro-organisms over millions of years largely contributed to the built-up of fossil fuels due to the uptake of atmospheric CO2. The release of fossil CO2 into the atmosphere served to allow humanity to develop nations, sciences, and industries. The same human ingenuity and the same photosynthetic organisms are now needed to process harmful amounts of CO2 into harmless and useful material. What is more important,  the phytoplankton will generate a hitherto unexpressed potential of renewable and environmental safe resources, both as energy and material resources. The same mechanisms that control(led) the material fluxes of the earth will now allow a novel, global industrial, this time sustainable, development. Think small, act large. That’s safe ®evolution”.

Saide & Bernd Kroon, 2004.

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