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Small critters, big effects - how the realm of microscopic oceanic algae influences our climate

Café scientifique

Presented by Prof David Antoine

Friday 23 July

10:00am - 11:30am (GMT+08:00)

WA Museum Boola Bardip, Perth

The microscopic unicellular algae living in the lighted portion of the oceans, which are called phytoplankton, have a photosynthetic activity, like all plants on Earth. Through this process that depends on sunlight impinging the ocean surface, they take up carbon dioxide (CO2) and synthesize organic matter. Although they are small, their numbers and, above all, their capacity to double their biomass roughly every two days, allows generating a staggering amount of ca. 50 billion tons of organic matter.

This is as much as what all terrestrial plants also produce every year. The overall World oceans phytoplankton biomass is however about 500 times smaller than that of terrestrial plants, which testifies of their excellent efficiency in turning CO2 into biomass. The presentation will show how satellite Earth observations have revolutionised knowledge about these processes, and how phytoplankton are part of the global carbon cycle and hence have a role in regulating the climate of our Planet.

Prof. David Antoine currently leads the Remote Sensing and Satellite Research Group at Curtin university, Perth (RSSRG; He is also a senior scientist with the Centre National de La Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in France, with which he still has ties. He holds a PhD in oceanography from the University Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris. His research over years has encompassed a number of topics from marine optics to satellite remote sensing, all together aiming at better quantifying phytoplankton in the oceans, their productivity, and their long-term changes in response to environmental changes.


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