Ocean iron fertilization. Source: Woods Hole
From the best laid plans of mice and men department.
In the late 1980′s, the late John Martin advanced the idea that carbon uptake during plankton photosynthesis in many regions of the world’s surface ocean was limited not by light or the major nutrients nitrogen and phosphorus, but rather by a lack of the trace metal iron. Correlations between dust input to the ocean (which is the major source of iron) and past climate changes and CO2 levels, led Martin’s to exclaim “Give me half a tanker of iron and I’ll give you the next ice age”.
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute wrote a paper about it Effects of Ocean Fertilization with Iron to Remove Carbon Dioxide from the Atmosphere Reported April 2004 News Release from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
From Slashdot and New Scientist:
Earlier this month, the controversial Indian-German Lohafex expedition fertilised 300 square kilometres of the Southern Atlantic with six tonnes of dissolved iron.
This triggered a bloom of phytoplankton, which doubled their biomass within two weeks by taking in carbon dioxide from the seawater. The dead phytoplankton were then expected to sink to the ocean bed, dragging carbon along with them. Instead, the experiment turned into an example o f how the food chain works, as the bloom was eaten by a swarm of hungry copepods.
While the experiment failed to show ocean fertilization as a viable carbon storage strategy, it has pushed the old “My dog ate my homework” excuse to an unprecedented level.
h/t to Dan Watts (no relation)