Never heard of salps? Well, they are jelly-like sea creatures and there are countless billions of them swimming in the world’s oceans and they are powerhouses in curbing climate change.
Salps cruise around the sea surface at night, sucking up and digesting phytoplankton, microscopic plant-like organisms that absorb CO2 for their photosynthesis. During the day, the salps sink deeper in the sea, possibly to avoid predators, and squirt out unusually heavy droppings rich in carbon left over from snacking on phytoplankton. The pellets sink rapidly, up to 1,000m in a day, and faster than the pellets of most other sea creatures. And when the salp dies, its body also sinks rapidly, sending even more carbon to the ocean depths.
According to a recent study, salps, jellyfish and other gelatinous creatures remove up to an estimated 6.8bn tonnes of carbon each year from seas around the world. Of that, some 2bn tonnes of the carbon is thought to fall to the seafloor where it stays locked up and out of harm’s way. Until recently, salps have been largely unappreciated, but OGN feels sure that they would be delighted to know that humans now have a very positive and grateful attitude towards their endeavours.