An underwater volcano that erupted near the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa is giving scientists a closer look at how ocean ecosystems could respond to climate change, from dying fish to adapting plankton.
The ecosystem responded much as the researchers would have expected to the high temperatures and changes in acidity caused by the uneasy volcano south of El Hierro island. But the strength of the response was a surprise, study researcher Eugenio Fraile-Nuez of the Instituto Español de Oceanografía in Spain told LiveScience.
“The physical and chemical response of the system was predictable, but we never have imagined that we would reach this magnitude,” Fraile-Nuez said.
The eruption killed or drove away all of the fish in the region (though many were seen floating dead on the ocean’s surface), the researchers found. Some phytoplankton, or the floating plants that sit at the bottom of the ocean food chain, were able to adapt.