The lighter green and milky blue areas offshore reveal the locations of blooming phytoplankton, suspended sediments, and shallow shoals and banks. (Photo: NASA)
NASA has also seen signs of spring from space, with blooms of ocean-dwelling phytoplankton beginning to show up off the coast of North America.
“The increasing hours of sunlight are slowly waking up primary producers in the sea,” the space agency says.
On a global scale, phytoplankton are responsible for about half of the Earth’s primary production. They turn carbon dioxide, sunlight and nutrients into food that species like fin fish and whales rely on. The phytoplankton also produce half of the oxygen in the atmosphere, taking in carbon dioxide and dropping it in waste-pellets to the seafloor.
Early spring not always a good thing
Although many people might welcome a shorter winter, early spring can come with problems, such as a longer allergy season and disruptions in food sources for some species.
“All species don’t respond to warming in the same way,” says Erin Posthumus, outreach coordinator for NPN. “[This] leads to mismatches between species that depend on one another, such as plants and pollinators. If grizzlies are emerging earlier, will the food sources they typically depend on be available early as well?”
Posthumus also says that while some species, like trees and insects, are good at adapting to early spring, others lag behind.
“Like migrating birds … this means they miss out on peak food sources when they arrive at their breeding grounds.”