We all learn at school that “oxygen is produced by trees.” It a good lesson, that one - it makes us see trees in a whole new way. Some of us end up fighting to protect trees in far away places. Even if they didn't, others would. Trees are fundamental to life.
But you never hear of people fighting for phytoplankton - these bizarre ocean creatures produce more oxygen than all the trees in the world combined. They are arguably the most important creatures on the planet. But we seem to have forgotten to learn that at school. If it's not on land, it's usually not on the curriculum.
It's a such a shame that education is kept so 'dry'. Phytoplankton are very very cool. They're not plants and their not really animals they're like animal-plants that often eat plant-animals and vice versa. Although they're small, they're stunningly beautiful and some can even glow in the dark. They gather in such numbers you can see them from space! What's not to love about phytoplankton. Okay, there is the fact that they're sometimes toxic, but they're still incredible none-the-less.
Scientists are saying that we're impacting phytoplankton in a major way. Some say there's been a massive reduction in numbers. In an age of rapid climate change, this is pretty fundamental stuff - Phytoplankton produces oxygen and even captures carbon from the system to bury deep on the ocean floor. We need phytoplankton!
Fortunately it appears, those scientist maybe wrong. The truth is we don't really know. It's not been a priority to find out. After all, phytoplankton can't really be that important, they weren't even mentioned at school!
I think it's time we changed that.