Iron Fertilization Will Not Help Global Warming

BERLIN (AFP) — Indian and German scientists have said that a controversial experiment has “dampened hopes” that dumping hundreds of tonnes of dissolved iron in the Southern Ocean can lessen global warming. The experiment involved “fertilising” a 300-square-kilometre (115-sqare-mile) area of ocean inside the core of an eddy — an immense rotating column of water — with six tonnes of dissolved iron.

As expected, this stimulated growth of tiny planktonic algae or phytoplankton, which it was hoped would take out of the atmosphere carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas blamed for climate change, and absorb it. However, the scientists from India’s National Institute of Oceanography (NIO) and Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) did not count on these phytoplankton being eaten by tiny crustacean zooplankton.

“The cooperative project Lohafex has yielded new insights on how ocean ecosystems function,” an AWI statement published on Monday said.

“But it has dampened hopes on the potential of the Southern Ocean to sequester significant amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) and thus mitigate global warming.”

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 (, 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.

9 Replies to “Iron Fertilization Will Not Help Global Warming”

  1. I think probably the researchers were unclear of what the lag time between the phytoplankton and zooplankton cropping would be. The longer the lag for the zooplankton population to utilize all the phytoplankton production the more that production that will be transported to the deep.

  2. Its beyond me really. If only 10% of surface production can make it down to the bottom anyways, why is this even economically viable? It makes me wonder what they plan to say to people and companies in their sales pitch for carbon sequestration…

  3. Angelo, I’m a Futurama junkee myself. ^_^

    Kevin: A few years ago some student came to me with an idea to sequester CO2 in small “greenwater” aquaria where phytoplankton could be grown. I told him that the idea is not feasible because the CO2 will go right back as soon as the phytoplankton degrades.
    I did get a better idea what to do with algae, though. :)

  4. Adding iron to the sea will not only cure global warming , it will feed billions more people . one day they will ” discover ” that adding used food tin cans to the ocean as artificial reefs , will add the required iron fertilization as a slow release fertilizer and nursery for all the extra fish .There are far too many people lining up to make billions from global warming to let it be cured for a few cents .Some governments see a carbon tax as the perfect way to tax the air we breath and control who gets the right to breathe . As we increase the amount of irrigation we decrease the amount of natural iron flowing into the ocean , Lack of iron is the CAUSE of global warming , the algae can not remove theCO2 from the air because we stop rivers carrying iron into the oceans , adding tin cans to ocean WILL cure global warming for free as well as save the whales and feed billions with extra fish , once we remove the greedy experts

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