by Aastha Katyal

In the 9th standard you must have studied about the food chain and thus encountered the term ‘phytoplankton’. What does it mean and how does the word affect your lives?
Phytoplanktons are microscopic organisms present in oceans and form the lowermost rung of the food chain which goes all the way up to humans. These microscopic marine organisms are capable of photosynthesis, just like terrestrial plants and floating in the upper layers of the ocean, provide much of the oxygen we need and make for about half of the total organic matter on Earth.
Are you wondering why it is so important to know about them? Well, it’s just nice to get to know someone while you have the chance to, right? For, the rate at which we are going, we will soon be responsible for the extinction of phytoplanktons!
Yes, it’s true. Our actions are what will cause its death. For our actions lead to global warming and subsequent rise in sea temperatures, which in turn is causing harm to these micro-organisms. Scientists have discovered that phytoplankton in the oceans has declined by over 40% over the past century with much of the loss occurring since the 1950s. Incidentally, sometime in the late 1970s ground based recording stations realized small but steady increase in near surface temperatures with ozone depletion and the greenhouse effect contributing to the phenomenon.
While scientists believe global warming began about 18,000 years ago as the earth started warming its way out of the Pleistocene Ice Age (a time when much of North America, Europe and Asia lay buried beneath great sheets of glacial ice), the average temperature of the earth has been growing at a faster rate more recently due to increased emissions of Greenhouse Gases, namely nitrous oxide, carbon dioxide, and methane.
We have a major hand in this problem because the main reasons for GHG emissions are vehicles, factories, deforestation and building of large residential and official buildings.
So if tomorrow phytoplankton becomes extinct and the food chain collapses WE will ultimately suffer and how! For its disappearance will not only affect marine life but also zooplanktons and other organisms higher up in the food chain which ultimately leads to humans and thus probably result in mankind extinction too in about a century!
So is travelling by your own personal car, and having three air conditioners in one room more important or the preservation of mankind more important? Something for us to think about!

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