Adding iron to the sea could combat climate change

Jul 24, 2012

Scientists at the University of Liverpool have found that adding iron to the sea could alleviate the impact of climate change.

The team showed that much of the algae which grows when iron is added to the sea dies and falls into the , taking with it the carbon it has absorbed. They added several tons of iron sulphate to a 1,67sq km patch within an ocean eddy near Antarctica which, within a week, had caused a large in the iron-limited but nutrient-rich ocean region. Although algae, which consists of and photosynthetic microbes, grows naturally in the ocean. there is only limited iron in in this region so adding iron makes it possible to grow algae.

Over a seven-week period, scientists monitored the water inside and outside the eddy before, during and after the deployment of iron. They found that after three weeks, the , which was initially within the top 100 metres of the ocean, sank below 1,000 metres, taking with it the carbon it had absorbed from the atmosphere and sending it to the , where scientists believe it will remain in a `fluff layer` for many centuries or longer.

Dr. Harry Leach, from the School of Environmental Sciences, who was part of the international team working on the research, said: “The study took place in a self-enclosed eddy which acted as a giant test tube so we could compare what happened within it with control points outside.

“Using a range of instruments to monitor nutrient and plankton levels from the ocean’s surface to the bottom, we were able to conclude that at least half of the algae had fallen below 1,000m and a substantial portion was likely to have reached the sea floor taking over half of the carbon absorbed from the surface.

“We have demonstrated for the first time that carbon, absorbed by algae in an iron-fertilized bloom, can sink to the ocean bed. This contributes to our understanding of the global carbon cycle and has implications for potential ways of mitigating rising levels of carbon dioxide – one of the major causes of .

“However, more experiments are needed to decide if these results provide a viable solution to reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide.”

The European Iron Fertilization Experiment (EIFEX) was carried out using the German Polarstern research ship and the research was led by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven.

Explore further: Remnants of Tropical Depression Peipah still raining on Philippines

More information: phys.org/news/2012-07-global-carbon-publish-results-iron.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Ocean iron and CO2 interaction studied

Apr 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.

Study Solves Ocean Plant Mystery

Aug 31, 2006

A NASA-sponsored study shows that by using a new technique, scientists can determine what limits the growth of ocean algae, or phytoplankton, and how this affects Earth's climate.

Recommended for you

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

2 hours ago

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

New study outlines 'water world' theory of life's origins

4 hours ago

(Phys.org) —Life took root more than four billion years ago on our nascent Earth, a wetter and harsher place than now, bathed in sizzling ultraviolet rays. What started out as simple cells ultimately transformed ...

Agriculture's growing effects on rain

Apr 15, 2014

(Phys.org) —Increased agricultural activity is a rain taker, not a rain maker, according to researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and their collaborators at the University of California Los ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Warm US West, cold East: A 4,000-year pattern

Last winter's curvy jet stream pattern brought mild temperatures to western North America and harsh cold to the East. A University of Utah-led study shows that pattern became more pronounced 4,000 years ago, ...

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

ESO image: A study in scarlet

This new image from ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile reveals a cloud of hydrogen called Gum 41. In the middle of this little-known nebula, brilliant hot young stars are giving off energetic radiation that ...

First direct observations of excitons in motion achieved

A quasiparticle called an exciton—responsible for the transfer of energy within devices such as solar cells, LEDs, and semiconductor circuits—has been understood theoretically for decades. But exciton movement within ...

Patent talk: Google sharpens contact lens vision

(Phys.org) —A report from Patent Bolt brings us one step closer to what Google may have in mind in developing smart contact lenses. According to the discussion Google is interested in the concept of contact ...

Tech giants look to skies to spread Internet

The shortest path to the Internet for some remote corners of the world may be through the skies. That is the message from US tech giants seeking to spread the online gospel to hard-to-reach regions.