Fermenting Oceans, Fermenting Marine Life

An Article of Fermenting Animals, Fermenting People Series

Majid Ali, M.D.

The health matters of people cannot be duly considered without taking into account the health issues of animals. In this article, I present some basic information about bioenergetics of oceans.

Two Systems of Oceanic Bioenergetics

Life evolved in oceans and then extended to land masses.1-7 Nature evolved two divergent systems of bioenergetics in oceans: a “top-ocean” solar-driven system and a “deep-ocean” sulfur-based system. Sunlight penetrates ocean waters for only three to four hundred feet, limiting photosynthetic energy generation largely to such depths, which is designated as the top ocean. Photosynthesis evolved, by current scientific evidence, more than two billion years ago to harness sunlight to split water and release free oxygen, which initiated the development, differentiation, and expansion of the kaleidoscope of marine and terrestrial oxygen-loving (oxyphilic or “philic”) species.

The second system of oceanic bioenergetics evolved in the deep ocean—5,000 to 30,000 feet and deeper—independent of solar energy. Unaccustomed to oxygen in its ecologic niches and unable to harness its energy, life in deep ocean became oxyphobic (“phobic”). The primordial precursors of phobic life evolved around vents of the deep ocean that seeped hydrocarbons—methane gas being the best recognized form—enriched with sulfur and iron compounds. So began the sulfur and nitrogen economies of the deep ocean. Phobic microbes that produce nutrients create the conditions under which complex multicellular life developed. The bowels of the deep-ocean shrubs and trees today are filled with such microbes.


Fibrillating Philic-Phobic Equilibrium

The “philic-phobic equilibrium,”which evolved over a period of about two billion years ago, is now under serious cumultative threats of global overpopulation, climatic chaos, planetary chemicalization, diffuse “oceanic plasticization,” and biodiversity. By some accounts, the accumulation of plastic waste now suffocates marine life in swaths of the Pacific that equal more than half of the Atlantic Ocean. All these geologic-scale changes have in common two crucial elements: oxygen depletion and incremental oxidative stress—conditions that potently favor phobic life over philic life.

Land-based photosynthetic biomass far exceeds its aquatic counterpart. However, marine phytoplankton carry out almost half of the global net photosynthesis, since the rate of photosynthesis per unit of biomass of the former is much lower than that of the latter. This facet of the philic-phobic equilibrium has profound implications for oceanic regeneration following massive disruptions, notably for the potential proliferative response times of microbial assemblages to varying rates of oxygen depletion and layers of oceanic redox potentials.

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