Ocean iron and CO2 interaction studied

April 26, 2007

A French study suggested that iron supply changes from deep water to the ocean's surface might have a greater effect on atmospheric CO2 than thought.

The finding by Stephane Blain and colleagues at the University of the Mediterranean have implications for interpretations of past climate change, as well as future climate predictions.

Iron plays an important role in the carbon cycle because phytoplankton need iron to fix energy into carbon, which is then sequestered in the deep ocean when the microorganisms die and sink. But the exact effect of changes in iron supply on the amount of carbon sequestered remains unclear.

The researchers studied a phytoplankton bloom that occurs in the Southern Ocean and found the ratio of carbon exported to the ocean interior to the amount of iron supplied is at least 10 times higher than previous thought.

The difference occurs because the iron is supplied slowly and continuously and because the bloom is dependent on the supply of major nutrients from below. That indicates such high efficiencies are unlikely to be achieved through artificial "fertilization" of the ocean with iron.

The research appears in the journal Nature.

Copyright 2007 by United Press International

Explore further: Southern Ocean: Reconstructing environmental conditions over the past 30,000 years

Related Stories

The moons of Jupiter

September 15, 2015

Jupiter was appropriately named by the Romans, who chose to name it after the king of the gods. In addition to being the largest planet in our Solar System – with two and a half times the mass of all the other planets combined ...

The gas (and ice) giant Neptune

September 14, 2015

Neptune is the eight planet from our Sun, one of the four gas giants, and one of the four outer planets in our Solar System. Since the "demotion" of Pluto by the IAU to the status of a dwarf planet – and/or Plutoid and ...

Intensity of desert storms may affect ocean phytoplankton

August 27, 2015

Each spring, powerful dust storms in the deserts of Mongolia and northern China send thick clouds of particles into the atmosphere. Eastward winds sweep these particles as far as the Pacific, where dust ultimately settles ...

Recommended for you

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (1) Dec 06, 2007
Phytoplankton death could explain the numerous CO2 spikes throughout geologic time.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.