German Government Green Lights Ocean Iron Fertilization Test After Review

Polarstern researh ship plans ocean iron fertilization experiment photo

Image: AWI
Ocean Fertilization a Political Hot Potato
Dumping iron in the ocean to reverse global warming evokes strong reactions and epitomizes the political hot potato. The German government lead resistance to attempts to use the fertilization of plankton growth in oceans for commercially offsetting greenhouse gas emissions, ultimately promoting an international convention restricting iron fertilization. The irony was not lost on many when Germany's own Alfred Wegener Institute announced plans for a large scientific study of iron fertilization. And this potato got so hot, the German science ministry suspended approval for the experiment pending further analysis -- even as the research ship Polarstern cruised toward the planned destination for the iron dump.Independent Review of Ocean Fertilization Study
Independent reviews of the study were evaluated by both the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety. The reviews affirmed the green light for the project. "After careful study of expert reports, I am convinced there are no scientific or legal objections to the German-Indian marine research project," said Science Minister Annette Schavan, as quoted at The Earth Times.

Purpose of the AWI Ocean Fertilization Study
The director of the Alfred Wegener Institute, Dr. Karin Lochte, sought to distance the project from the controversial question of geo-engineering:

I wish to strongly emphasise that our experiment was developed on the basis of purely scientific issues in order to better understand the role of iron in the global climate system. A large number of reports are circulating on the Internet and in the international press claiming that the Alfred Wegener Institute is conducting the experiment to test the geo-engineering option of ocean fertilisation as a means to sequester large quantities of carbon oxide from the atmosphere. This is definitely not the case. We hope that through this experiment we will be able to contribute to a better understanding of ocean biogeochemistry and pelagic ecosystem functioning.

In the meantime, the team on Polarstern has found a "closed eddy that is suitable for the experiment." Polarstern will soon begin the process of spreading 20 tons of iron sulfate in a spiral pattern at depths to 15 meters below the surface. The team will monitor the area for 40 days after the fertilization. Data will be shared with others in the scientific, environmental and regulatory communities. The AWI may not have geo-engineering in its sights, but the data this study delivers will certainly be of value to both sides of the argument.

More on German Ocean Fertilization Approval:
Polarstern expedition "LOHAFEX" can be conducted
Germany gives green light to dropping iron in ocean
More on Polarstern:
German Research Ship Polarstern Sails to Experiment with Ocean Iron Fertilization
LOHAFEX: An Indo-German iron fertilization experiment
International Team Of Scientists To Test South Atlantic Carbon Sink In 2009
Hot Spot Sight-Seeing

More on Iron Fertilization of Oceans:
Ocean Iron Fertilization Test in South Atlantic Given Go Ahead
Think Ocean Geo-Engineering is a Good Idea? Think Again, Scientists Urge
Where We Stand on Iron Fertilization
German Scientist Outlines Massive Iron Fertilization Plan to Save the Antarctic
What Would Be the Side Effects of Iron Fertilization?

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