Speaking at University College London – where enlarged images of the plankton were on display – Attenborough commented: “I think they’re marvellous. I think they’re stunning,” before leaning in to an image and joking: “I’m not sure about the likeness”.
He added: “If you said that plankton, the phytoplankton, the green oxygen-producing plankton in the oceans is more important to our atmosphere than the whole of the rainforest, which I think is true, people would be astonished.
“They are an essential element in the whole cycle of oxygen production and carbon dioxide and all the rest of it, and you mess about with this sort of thing and the echoes and the reverberations and the consequences extend throughout the atmosphere.”
Meanwhile executive producer of Blue Planet II James Honeyborne said: “Phytoplankton may be tiny but they are the basis of all life in the ocean – feeding everything from baby fish to great whales – and they help keep our seas, and indeed our whole planet healthy.
“It’s a great honour for everyone in our wider Blue Planet II team: our filmmakers, camera operators, associated scientists and conservationists, explorers and support teams, to be associated with such an impactful form of life.”