Huge Dust Storm Feeds Fish and Eats Carbon Dioxide

Sydney Dust Storm Ryan Lahiff photo

Our resident boffin John Laumer speculated late last month that plankton feeding fish off Australia's east coast wouldn't know what hit them following the massive geoengineering event (a huge dust storm) that blew across the continent recently. He was right. Researchers from the Ocean Technology Group at the University of Sydney estimate 8 million tonnes of CO2 was captured by the phytoplankton that grew as a result of the dust storm.

The scientists stick their neck out even further and say, according to ABC Online, the findings validates plans to increase fish stocks to feed some of the world's poorest people using ocean fertilisation.Professor Ian Jones, director of the Ocean Technology Group (OTG) is quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald on the subject of phytoplankton growth increasing fish production. ''If we continuously nourished a patch of water about 20 kilometres in diameter we could support poor artisan fisherfolk and we could raise their daily income from $1 to $2, while storing 10 million tonnes per year of carbon dioxide in the deep ocean,'' he said.

And these weren't the only figures being bandied about. Apparently, the dust storm, the worst in 70 years, carried about 140,000 tonnes of soil an hour from central Australia, dumping an estimated 4,000 tonnes on Sydney alone. Professor Jones team estimated that eight million tonnes of CO2 was captured by the extra two million tonnes of phytoplankton that grew in the Tasman Sea, the equivalent of a month's emissions from a coal-fired power station. The estimated three million tonnes of topsoil deposited in the Tasman Sea contained about 30,000 tonnes of nutrients likes nitrogen and phosphates.

We've previously covered controversial plans to enrich oceans with iron. As their name would suggest, the Ocean Technology Group, are right behind ocean enrichment to stimulate plankton growth, fish stocks and capture carbon dioxide. They are also part of the Ocean Nourishment in Asia Project. But they seem more in favour of nitrogen enrichment than of iron. Professor Jones, again quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald piece, says the harbour findings show there is little danger to the environment from enriching the sea with nitrogen - five days after the dust storm phytoplankton levels were back to normal.

Photo: Dust Storm ensnares Sydney Harbour. ABC Online: Ryan Lahiff)
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