A study into the chemical composition of marine plankton is challenging a long-held assumption on how much carbon dioxide the organisms consume.
The study, published online Sunday in Nature Geoscience, calls into question the textbook ratio of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous contained in all plankton. This so-called "Redfield ratio," named for oceanographer Alfred Redfield, holds that those compounds are fixed at 106:16:1 units respectively.
However, after examining over 700 ocean water samples from the North Atlantic, the Bearing Sea, the Carribean and other locations, researchers found that the chemical composition varied widely according to temperature, and global lattitude.
Warm waters had a far higher ratio of CO2, rising to as much 195:28:1, while cooler seas had ratios that fell to 78:13:1