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Plankton blooms in the ocean

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Plankton blooms are a common phenomenon in the ocean. They are caused by phytoplankton, microscopic plants that float in the upper, sunlit layers of the ocean. When large numbers of phytoplankton are concentrated in one area, the color of the water surface changes.

A special group of plankton are coccolithophores. These tiny organisms generate very thin plates of calcium carbonate known as coccoliths. Coccoliths reflect light in a unique way turning the color of the water into a bright, milky aquamarine during intense blooms, which can be seen from space.

This week, scientists from various fields—including ecology, genetics, geology, marine biology, and oceanography—are meeting to discuss coccolithophores. The conference "Coccolithophores: From Molecular Processes to Global Impact" is held in Monte Verità, Ascona, Switzerland.

Coccolithophorid blooms off Newfoundland in the western Atlantic.

Coccolithophorid blooms in the Bering Sea.

Coccolithophorid blooms in the Celtic Sea.

See also GNN's In the Literature Marine algae: Coccolithophores

Birgit Reinert

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