Starsand Foraminifera from the Great Barrier Reef (Australia): Researchers from the University of Bonn found out that such tiny foraminifera in the oceans can save islands. Credit: Martin Langer/Uni Bonn Enlarge

The climate is getting warmer, and sea levels are rising – a threat to island nations. As a group of researchers lead by colleagues from the University of Bonn found out, at the same time, tiny single-cell organisms are spreading rapidly through the world's oceans, where they might be able to mitigate the consequences of climate change. Foraminifera of the variety Amphistegina are stabilizing coastlines and reefs with their calcareous shells. The study's results have now appeared in the international online journal PLOS ONE.

Countless billions of tiny, microscopic shelled creatures known as foraminifera inhabit the oceans of our planet: some of which look like little stars, others like Swiss cheese, and yet others like tiny mussels. They are extremely plentiful and exceptionally diverse in shape. Most of the approximately 10,000 foraminifera species live on the bottom of tropical and sub-tropical oceans, are surrounded by a calcareous shell, and do not even reach the size of a grain of sand. And yet, these tiny organisms are capable of enormous tasks. "Foraminifera are ecosystem engineers," says Prof. Dr. Martin Langer from the Steinmann-Institut für Geologie, Mineralogie und Paläontologie at the University of Bonn. "With their shells, these protozoa produce up to two kilograms of calcium carbonate per square meter of ocean floor. This often makes them, after corals, the most important producers of sediment in tropical reef areas."

About 9,000 kilometers along the coast

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