Scientists from Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute have been given approval to proceed with a controversial plan to dump several tons of iron into the Southern Ocean. A recent study from the University of Southampton has shown that seeding the ocean with iron can lock carbon away from the atmosphere permanently, but many environmentalists are concerned about the scheme’s long-term effects.
The University of Southampton study showed that a natural source of iron at the northern boundary of the Southern Ocean tripled the growth of phytoplankton in the area. When marine algae and phytoplankton die, they take vast quantities of CO2 with them to the bottom of the ocean, leading to permanent carbon sequestration.
Results from previous ocean fertilization studies, however, are often contradictory, and researchers do not have data on the long-term effectiveness of iron-dumping. At this point, we’ll only find out the impact of ocean fertilization on local ecology after Alfred Wegener’s scientists complete their experiment.
Photo Credit: CC-licensed by Flickr user mischiru
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