There's a controversial idea out there to combat climate change by dumping iron into the oceans to grow plankton, which in turn can absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere. When plankton die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean, locking away some of the carbon they have absorbed.
A recent study in the journal Nature reports that a big, naturally occurring bloom in the Southern Ocean has helped "lock" away CO2 in sea sediments. However, the CO2 locked away was far, far less than scientists anticipated - 15-50 times short of some expectations.
Nevertheless, some scientists want to take this CO2-absorbing concept one step further and attempt to create a human-made bloom by adding iron to the ocean water to see how much CO2 could be absorbed.
So the question becomes, could we remove significant amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere by "fertilizing" the ocean with iron? And does this hurt the ocean? Scientists still aren't sure exactly how much carbon can be locked away in plankton, and many people are skeptical and opposed to dumping large amounts of iron into the ocean to test what happens.
Germany had suspended an ocean fertilization experiment in the Scotia Sea near Argentina after environmental groups protested that it violated the terms of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and threatened to damage ecosystems. But a few days after the release of the Nature study last week, the Germans reauthorized this experiment and researchers are moving forward with plans to seed about six tons of iron sulfate over 300 square kilometers of the Sea.
Dumping tons of iron into the ocean sounds scary, but I'm also of the mindset that we need to try lots of different things to combat climate change. But I could be swayed. If there's someone out there who knows more about this technology and research, drop a comment.
via BBC News and Science Daily