Fertilizing the Oceans with Iron Sinks Carbon, But is it a Good Idea?

The Eddy and the Plankton

“The Eddy and the Plankton” A massive plankton bloom observed from space. (Image: NASA Earth Observatory via Flickr)

It’s a controversial idea that has been around for decades. Stimulate the growth of phytoplankton (plant plankton) in remote reaches of the oceans by fertilizing the oceans with iron. Previous studies concluded that such an approach would not be effective. However, the recent analysis of a 2004 ocean fertilization experiment in the Southern Ocean — published in the journal, Nature — shows that use of iron fertilization did stimulate the growth of phytoplankton, which sank into the deep sea after the algae died, serving as a “carbon sink” in the deep where the carbon would be held out of the atmosphere for centuries. [Read more…]