A new discovery of ocean life by NASA has been described as “unprecedented” and compared to “finding a rainforest in the middle of the desert”. The NASA team had to cut through three feet of sea ice to study the water beneath, but what they found in the water was concentrated amounts of the microscopic marine plant life (phytoplankton) that is essential to all marine life. The most interesting discovery is that underneath all of the ice, the marine plant life was more condensed than any other region on Earth.
As for why these high-levels of phytoplankton are being found under sea ice in some of the coldest regions in the world, NASA blames climate change and ever-increasing temperatures in the arctic. Because the ice is constantly getting thinner, there is more sunlight reaching these waters than ever before, allowing the marine plant life to grow into full-blown underwater ice blooms.
According to a NASA press release,
The phytoplankton were extremely active, doubling in number more than once a day. Blooms in open waters grow at a much slower rate, doubling in two to three days. These growth rates are among the highest ever measured for polar waters. Researchers estimate that phytoplankton production under the ice in parts of the Arctic could be up to 10 times higher than in the nearby open ocean.
Researchers are now interested in finding out if this particular bloom is not an isolated case, suggesting enormous blooms of underwater plant life could be living under the ice in other regions on the planet. As well, the discovery could drastically change how we perceive the global carbon cycle of our oceans.