Deepest Points of the Ocean Contain Radioactive Carbon From Nuclear Bombs​


A new study published in Geophysical Research Letters has revealed that the radioactive carbon discharged by the nuclear bomb testings from the 20th century has been found on the bottom of the ocean. Researchers detected signs of radioactive carbon from atomic bomb trials which were discharged into the atmosphere, now in muscle web of crustaceans that live in the deepest points of the ocean. This includes the Mariana Trench, the deepest area in the sea, where, too, organisms in the ocean’s surface have absorbed carbon into their body particles ever since the 1950s, researchers found.

The study authors explained that human pollution could immediately incorporate into the food web and go all the way to the bottom of the ocean. Lead author Dr. Ning Wang, a geochemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences said that even though it takes hundreds of years for the ocean flow to transport water infested with bomb carbon to the most profound areas, the food web absorbs it a lot faster.

Crustaceans Present Higher Levels of Radioactive Carbon Than Normal

Dr. Weidong Sun, co-author of the study explained that a compelling connection exists between the surface of the ocean and its depths, as regards to the biologic system, and human discharges can strongly affect the biosystems down to 11,000 meters. Humans need to stop being reckless about their behavior, now and in the future as well because this concerns the food chain also. The discoveries will aid scientists to deepen their understanding of how organisms have adapted to the deep ocean’s environment lacking nutrient.

The crustaceans observed by the research team live for a surprisingly long time by having incredibly slow metabolisms. The team thinks this is the result of an adaption to living in such a severe habitat.  Carbon-14, which is a radioactive carbon naturally produced when cosmic beams mesh with nitrogen in the atmosphere, can be identified in almost all living creatures and utilized to put an age on the archaeological and geological swatches.

Thermonuclear bomb tests carried out between the 1950s and 1960s duplicated the quantity of carbon-14 in the air, the carbon then falling into the ocean’s surface. Since that time, marine organisms have built particles within their cells utilizing carbon, researchers discovering extremely high ranges of carbon-14 in them.

Deepest Points of the Ocean Contain Radioactive Carbon From Nuclear Bombs​

In the study, the team of researchers used radioactive carbon as a marker for organic fabric in hadal trenches to gain a better understanding of the creatures living down there. Hadal trenches are the deepest points of the ocean, where the sea is at a lower level than four miles under the surface.

Dr. Wang and her team observed amphipods, a kind of small crustaceans that live on the bottom of the ocean and eats dead organisms or intake marine debris. The amphipods were collected from the Mariana Mussau and New Britain Trenches in the West Pacific Ocean back in 2017. The level of carbon-14 within the amphipods’ muscle tissues was much higher than levels of the chemical element found in the depths of the ocean’s water.

Also, researchers found that amphipods’ lives and bodies (of those living in the ocean trenches) are longer than those living in less deep waters. The creatures’ long lives and sizes are probably due to the result of their development to existing in a low temperature, high pressure, and limited food store habitat. Dr. Rosy Cory, an associate professor of Earth and Environmental Services at the University of Michigan commented on the study and said that the research shows clearly that not even the deepest depths of the ocean are affected by human activities.


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