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Ocean Zones That Lack Life Supporting Vitamin B Mapped

Jul 29, 2012 11:26 AM EDT
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A team of researchers have identified the zones in the ocean that are deficient in vitamin B using an analytical technique.

Researchers from the University of Southern California (USC) and University of Hawaii analyzed concentrated water samples using a mass spectrometer, a technique to determine the element composition and chemical structure of the samples.

The components of the sample are ionized by various methods such as using an electron beam. The ions are separated and then detected using a quantitative method. Using this new method, scientists detected the zones that are deficient in vitamin B.

Vitamin B is water-soluble and plays an important role to sustain life of living organisms in the ocean. They are also necessary for plant-like organisms such as phytoplankton to thrive below the ocean.

As carbon emissions continue to rise, these plant-like organisms help in absorbing the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and deposit it under the ocean floor before they die. If vitamin B is not available in the ocean, organisms like phytoplankton suffer and ultimately hinder its ability to help clean up the atmosphere.

The researchers also found that there are five vitamin B components that are present in varying levels in different regions along the southern California-Baja California coast in the Northeast Pacific margin.

"An important result of our study is that the concentrations of the five major B vitamins vary independently and appear to have different sources and sink," David Karl, professor of oceanography at the University of Hawaii said in a statement. "This could lead to complex interactions among populations of microbes, from symbiosis to intense competition."

Experts will further probe in hopes of finding out what causes the varying amounts of the vitamin B components and how it affects the growth of the algae blooms, which is caused due to population explosion.

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of theNational Academy of Sciences.

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