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World - Kill Krill: A Base of the Food Chain May Be at Risk

Eons after the whale and the snail, humans have noticed the charms of krill.

The spiking commercial popularity of the tiny shrimp-like crustaceans is not a good thing. Krill aren’t rock-bottom on the global food chain but they’re pretty close. Themselves dining on phytoplankton, which are microscopic water plants, krill in turn are consumed by a vast array of animalia from bigger shrimp to birds to, famously, baleen whales – and now us.

This augurs ill for the krill, which is increasingly included not only in fish food (think: farmed salmon) but in products for humans, say Prof. Dr. Bettina Meyer from the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, in the journal Nature Communications Earth & Environment.

The problem is that krill abundance fluctuates greatly in various places and – here’s the snag – we don’t know why, the research team explains. We know little about krill procreation habits and have difficulty preventing overfishing if we don’t know what krill do. Solutions for the nonce: study the ways of the krill, instate international fishing regulations and do it globally. Also it would be good to do this fast because the oceans are warming.

Ocean mixing is diminishing

Evidently ignoring the growling of their respective great leaders, a collaboration of scientists from the United States and China report in Nature Climate Change that the oceans are becoming stably stratified because of global warming. Sound like a good thing? It is not. Why? Because the more stable the layering (cold dense salty water at bottom, warmer lighter fresher water on top), the less the layers mix, and the less oxygen and carbon mixes into the water column from the surface, among other things.

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