Salps – jelly balls invade Aussie coast reduce carbon by poohing

An unusual large number of jelly-like creatures has been discovered in waters along the NSW coast from Sydney to Newcastle during a marine survey of the region by a team of scientists from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and CSIRO.

Numbers 10 times larger than those seen 70 years ago, these small marine ‘jelly balls’ Salps have recently washed ashore on local beaches, but pose no threat to swimmers.

Salps are transparent, barrel-shaped animals that can range from one to 10 centimetres in length. They are typically found near the ocean’s surface and, as a result, can be washed up onto dry land.

The voyage’s Chief Scientist, UNSW Professor Iain Suthers says the team observed salps in numbers never before recorded in Australian waters. “In fact, salp numbers are ten-times greater than those seen 70 years ago.” There numbers increase during the spring, but when strong East Australian Current brings more nutrients to the surface waters for the algae.  This is the favorite food of the salpsMore food equals increased growth rates. As ocean waters around the world warm, both algae and salps increase.

Dr Anthony Richardson research scientist from CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research and University of Queensland believes salps could be important to reducing the impacts of climate change.

“Salps feed on small plants in the water known as phytoplankton that take up carbon dioxide during photosynthesis,” he says. “As part of normal salp growth, they produce heavy, carbon-rich feces that can sink rapidly to the seafloor, removing carbon from the oceans.”

Several international research groups are exploring the potential role of salps and other marine organisms in carbon sequestration and environmental adaptation to global warming.

Spring Bloom Brings Jelly Balls To NSW Coast

Sydney NSW (SPX) November 11, 2008

An Australian salp. Image credit – Anita Slotwinski, Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute
Spring Bloom Brings Jelly Balls To NSW Coast


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