Ocean Iron Fertilization Test in South Atlantic Given Go Ahead

south georgia island photo
The test will be conducted off of South Georgia Island, pictured here. Photo: NASA via Wikipedia

TreeHugger has covered plans for ocean iron fertilization a number of times and the basic premise goes like this: By fertilizing parts of the ocean with iron filings you can increase the rate of photosynthesis in phytoplankton, increasing the amount of carbon dioxide which can be absorbed by the ocean. There the greenhouse gas emissions can be sequestered for long enough that global warming can be slowed.

One concern though is the effect that this will have on ocean ecosystems. Now, following a discovery by a British Royal Navy vessel off the coast of Antarctica, some of these concerns have been allayed enough for a test of the procedure near South Georgia Island: Icebergs Release Enough Iron to Allow Larger Testing
The discovery which led up to this is that melting icebergs are already releasing large enough quantities of tiny iron particles iron into the oceans that fears about harming marine life have been reduced sufficiently to perform larger scale iron fertilization tests.

Prof Rob Raiswell of Leeds University, who is lead researcher on the project described the discovery by saying, "The Earth itself seems to want to save us."

(Personally, I don't think the planet, though undoubtedly self-regulating, gives a hoot about saving humanity specifically...but it is interesting that it may be that as more icebergs break free more iron particles are released into the ocean naturally, potentially increasing algae growth.)

Algae Needs to Sink Thousands of Feet for Procedure to Work
The new test will consist of several tons of iron sulphate being dumped in the ocean to create an artificial algae bloom. The researchers will then determine how much algae sinks to sufficient depth (a couple miles is needed) that the absorbed carbon can be trapped for at least a couple hundred years. If the algae doesn't sink far enough will just release the absorbed carbon back into the atmosphere.

via: Cleantech and Daily Mail
German Scientist Outlines Massive Iron Fertilization Plan to Save the Antarctic
What Would Be the Side Effects of Iron Fertilization
International Team of Scientists to Test South Atlantic Carbon Sink in 2009

Tags: Antarctica | Geoengineering | Global Climate Change | Global Warming Solutions


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