Where To Proceed With Ocean Iron Fertilization

This weeks Science offers commentary on the use of Ocean Iron Fertilization (OIF) to mitigate rising carbon dioxide levels. The author list is a dream team of ocean productivity experts who know what they are talking about. The 1 page commentary is chock-o-block full of great quotes.

The efficacy by which OIF sequesters atmospheric CO2 to the deep sea remains poorly constrained, and we do not understand the intended and unintended biogeochemical and ecological impacts. Environmental perturbations from OIF are nonlocal and are spread over a large area by ocean circulation, which makes long- term verification and assessment very difficult


OIF could make only a partial contribution to mitigation of global CO increase.

The group lists 7 items that need to be included in future research on OIF. The ending paragraph simply states that selling carbon offsets from OIF experiments is premature and use of OIF will come with an “alteration of ocean ecosystems” with potentially unforseen consequences.

Buesseler et al. (2008) Ocean Iron Fertilization–Moving Forward in a Sea of Uncertainty. Science 319:162

DOI: 10.1126/science.1154305

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.

4 Replies to “Where To Proceed With Ocean Iron Fertilization”

  1. The group lists 7 items that need to be included on future research on OIF. The ending paragraph simply states that selling carbon offsets from OIF experiments is premature and that use of OIF will come with a “alteration of ocean ecosystems” with potentially unforseen consequences.

    I hope the research continues. It’s nice they are being cautious, but I have heard that when they make possible extrapolations the carbon sequestration could be highly significant!
    Dave Briggs :~)

  2. It remains an interesting subject of research, but I’m really glad that the proper attention is being paid to its drawbacks and limitations. Any increase in local ocean productivity will have all sorts of unintended consequences, and the article linked by Jim Lemire above makes a good case for caution. In addition to hydrogen sulfide production, there is the issue of the uptake and sequestration of limiting nutrients other than iron, such as phosphorus and silica. We still know so little about the biochemical effects of a bloom, and causing large blooms with thought only toward their effects on a single compound (CO2) is dangerous thinking. I hold out some hope for the method, but it should certainly continue to be addressed with caution. We have such a poor record of manipulations, and so many of them were done with the best of intentions.

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