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Researchers make astonishing discovery about unexpected organism's ability to cool the planet: 'The most abundant … on Earth'

This algae is one of many natural features on Earth that help to regulate global temperatures.

This algae is one of many natural features on Earth that help to regulate global temperatures.

Photo Credit: iStock

A common type of ocean algae plays a more important role than previously thought when it comes to cooling the Earth, according to new research.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Ocean University of China (OUC) conducted the study. The findings were published in the journal Nature Microbiology and reported by Phys.org.

The researchers identified the bloom-forming Pelagophyceae algae as an important producer of a compound called dimethylsulfoniopropionate (DMSP). DMSP is the primary source of a climate-active gas called dimethylsulfide (DMS), which is responsible for the strong smell associated with the seaside.

"The Pelagophyceae are among the most abundant algae on Earth, yet they were not previously known as important producers of DMSP," co-lead author Professor Jonathan Todd of UEA's School of Biological Sciences said, per Phys.org. "This discovery is exciting because DMSP is an abundant antistress compound, food source for other microorganisms, and major source of climate-cooling gasses."

DMSP is produced by the ocean's microorganisms and helps them survive stressors like changes in salinity and cold, Phys.org explained. When DMS is released into the atmosphere, it helps to cool the planet, as oxidation products help to form clouds that reflect sunlight. 

This algae is one of Earth's many natural features that help regulate global temperatures. For instance, seagrass meadows provide roughly $88.3 billion in carbon storage services every year. Even animals like sharks, elephants, and wolves play a role in carbon capture and storage.

Understanding these natural systems better could help us fight the consequences of an overheating planet. If we do nothing, we stand to face devastating impacts, including more frequent and severe weather that threatens lives and food security, increased prevalence of life-threatening diseases, climate displacement, and more.

In addition to these nature-based solutions, scientists are working on innovative technologies to address rising global temperatures. For instance, one startup is producing plant-based bricks that can remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it for centuries.

You can help by voting for pro-climate candidates and reducing your dependence on gas-powered vehicles — around a third of all planet-heating pollution in the United States comes from the transportation sector.

Join our free newsletter for easy tips to save more, waste less, and help yourself while helping the planet.

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