I was wondering if the decrease in light received by the area comprised by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) could affect Phytoplankton enough to reduce its potential in that area as a carbon sink.

I mean, it is an area that gets plenty of sunlight, but compared to the overall size of ocean coverage it is not that much and maybe the cover is not intense enough to reduce completely photosynthesis in that area, so maybe the effect is negligible.

I couldn't find any article reviewing this. If someone can point me to some literature at least.

I found this: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/325022723_Impact_of_microplastics_on_phytoplankton

But I find these results hard to interpret and was hoping more for an ecological studies.

Rephrasing the question for clarity: how much does the GPGP effect C02 capture by effects of disrupting phytoplankton?

PS: Back of envelope calculations:

with a GPGP area of 15e6 Km^2 (source wikipedia)

and a total ocean area of 360e6 Km^2

we have lost 4% of CO2 capture from plankton. But if plankton captures 30-50% of all CO2 emissions, then we lost 2% of all of our carbon capture potential. But more so, if we assumed that tropical phytoplankton captures more CO2 than from other regions (suppose all of it), then with about 40% of oceans in the tropics we have:

15/(360*0.4) ~ 10% CO2 capturing phytoplankton lost

which would yield 3-5% reduction on our total carbon capture capacity (I am taking this number as a maximum possible impact )

This, to me, seems like a pretty important number, so I must assume that either: (1) tropical phytoplankton does not contribute majorly to CO2 capture, so its loss would not be impactful (2) this is very difficult to study and model (3) some other reason I haven't thought of

In any case, thank you for your attention!

  • $\begingroup$ Do you have a source to support your claim of losing 4% of carbon dioxide capture from plankton (phytoplankton)? Is this a hypothetical figure? $\endgroup$ – Sudachi Jul 9 '19 at 22:32
  • $\begingroup$ completely hypothetical, just trying to do basic estimations since I don't have any information. $\endgroup$ – user27221 Jul 17 '19 at 15:49

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