San Francisco, Calif., (PRWEB) December 11, 2006
The hit holiday movie Happy Feet has finally awakened American audiences to the risks that ocean decline poses to the fate of global penguin populations.
Publicity for their plight is sadly overdue. A document prepared by the non-profit Center for Biological Diversity states that of the world's 19 species of penguins, 12 are in danger of becoming extinct if the world's governments don't list them as endangered.
As the movie's writer, director, and producer George Miller revealed the penguins' peril is due to the plummeting ocean productivity. Miller was drawn to the issue after seeing a penguin documentary some years back, "I saw Life in the Freezer about ten years ago and I thought, 'Oh my God, I knew about the penguins but I had no idea that there lives were so extraordinary'." While his movie gives us a heartwarming view of penguin life, it also portrays the tragic collapse of their ocean ecosystem.
While Miller heaps his blame on the admittedly critical issue of over-fishing, an even more sinister culprit pulling the rug out from under the penguins' dancing feet is the biological demise of the world's plankton populations, the base of the ocean food chain. This crisis not only threatens penguins and most other sea life, it is intensifying global warming. The plankton decline is now so severe that over 3 billion fewer tonnes of CO2 are being photosynthetically removed from the atmosphere each year compared to just a generation ago. This is triggering a vicious circle.
A study published in the journal Nature this week detailed the withering impact that climate change is having on ocean plankton populations worldwide. "This study shows that as the climate warms, phytoplankton production goes down, but this also means that carbon dioxide uptake by ocean plants will decrease ... making the problem worse," said lead researcher Michael Behrenfeld.
Other ocean scientists have reported an alarming 80% decline in krill stocks in the Scotia Sea, part of the Southern Ocean, right next door to the region where Happy Feet characters are tap dancing away this holiday season. Krill populations are directly dependent on phytoplankton, the microscopic ocean plants, which Nature reports are in such steep decline. Krill not only nourish penguins, they are the staple food for many of the world's fisheries and all the great baleen whales, which traditionally rear their calves in the cetacean nursery of the Scotia Sea.
Russ George, CEO of Planktos, Inc., a California ecorestoration firm says, "It's not too late to restore the plankton, revive ocean productivity, and save Mumbles and his penguin buddies who have danced into our hearts."
Planktos, Inc. is addressing the imminent climate change crisis through ocean ecosystem restoration projects which will stimulate plankton growth by replenishing missing iron micronutrients in the Southern Ocean and many other regions as well. This restoration of marine life will also restore the ocean's ability to lock away billions of tonnes of atmospheric carbon and help slow global warming, too.
Russ George notes, "As we work to restore the health and vitality of the oceans, the phytoplankton populations we revive will remove CO2 from the atmosphere, which we can then verify and sell as 'carbon credits' or tonnes of greenhouse gas reductions. This will easily pay for the restoration work. Individuals and companies can help restore the seas and safeguard the penguins as well by purchasing ocean restoration credits via the Planktos web store at http://www.planktos.com."