Coccolithophores and Carbon

Coccolithophores in the Black Sea
Coccolithophores in the Black Sea

In our day of concern over carbon emissions and global warming, it is always good to see something positive taking place in the environment. Every day there is a new view in space posted by NASA at the website On April 24, 2017, there was a photograph taken from space of the Black Sea showing a bloom of coccolithophores. So what are they and why should you care? Coccolithophores are phytoplankton, tiny organisms that live in the large bodies of water such as oceans and seas around the world.

Why should you care? The answer to that has to do with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. There are also viruses called coccolithoviruses that attack the coccolithophores. To protect themselves, they absorb carbon dioxide from the air and combine it with calcium to make shells of calcium carbonate–chalk. The White Cliffs of Dover are made of this chalk material that was produced by coccolithophores. In the process of protecting themselves, these organisms remove carbon dioxide from the air. It appears they may have been the agents that allowed oxygen to rise in our atmosphere to the level where animal life could exist.

The coccolithophores are very complex, and the process is good solid chemistry. The bloom that is visible from space of the coccolithophores in the Black Sea tells us that there are balances built into the earth to help reduce greenhouse gasses. It also says that this is a designed tool to allow life to exist on planet Earth. Everywhere we look on this planet, we see that a wonder-working hand has gone before. Even looking back at the Earth from outer space we can see what that hand has done and continues to do to allow us to survive.
–John N. Clayton © 2017