A startling display of phytoplankton have transformed the Black Sea.
Over the past weeks, the Black Sea and parts of the Bosphorus Strait have transformed turquoise on the account of an illuminating phytoplankton bloom.
Located between Eastern Europe and Western Asia, the Black Sea is naturally deep blue in colour and only turns turquoise very rarely. The water usually noticeably lightens during the warm summer seasons, but this year has been exceptionally bright.
Locals immediately reached for their phones to document the event. Others worried the change of color was due to pollution or an approaching earthquake. Social media was shortly filled with pictures speculating about the historic event.
According to NASA, who shared a satellite picture via Twitter, this astonishing pigmentation is due to phytoplankton species. These microscopic organisms are attracted to bodies of water according to certain nutrients. Their process of massification creates a bloom that completely transforms the water. NASA investigators relate these episodes to a specific species of phytoplankton, called coccolithophores, that live in the Danube and Dnieper rivers.
The NASA Earth Observatory classify coccolithophores as a species that “prefer to live on the surface in still, nutrient-poor water in mild temperatures,” in contrast to other phytoplanktons that usually prefer waters that contain constant supply nutrients beneath the surface. NASA also explained that these tiny organisms are covered in white calcium carbonate plates that cover their exterior. When gathered together, the coccolithophores reflect sunlight.
Although these creatures are likely to temporarily support other species like fish and shellfish, extended blooms can lead to water eutrophication. This process, by which a body of water gains excessive richness, can also reduce the quantity of existing oxygen. This can subsequently provoke the death of other water creatures by suffocation.
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