What is it about?

Phytoplankton, which are tiny marine organisms, produce oxygen by photosynthesis. But they are now under threat due to increasing global temperatures. In a 2020 study, scientists examined how increasing temperatures would affect phytoplankton populations and their oxygen production rate. They compared a classical mathematical model of this relationship against one that used a ‘Caputo fractional derivative’. The Caputo fractional derivative allows the modelling of complex and rapidly changing processes with high accuracy. Through classical modelling, the researchers found that increasing temperatures would cause phytoplankton populations to grow extinct and cause a depletion in the oxygen produced by them. With the Caputo model, although the extinction could be postponed, it was still the final outcome.

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Why is it important?

Phytoplankton not only produce massive amounts of oxygen but also pull in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, they are sensitive organisms, and global warming has lowered their population in the oceans. The results of the modelling show that the effects of global warming on phytoplankton populations is very strong. The extinction of phytoplankton due to global warming is inevitable. Key takeaway While the Caputo model indicates that phytoplankton is more sustainable than classical models predict, they will still ultimately go extinct due to climate change. This extinction will then cause a depletion in global oxygen levels.

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This page is a summary of: Fractional order oxygen–plankton system under climate change, Chaos An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science, March 2020, American Institute of Physics, DOI: 10.1063/1.5129766.
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