Feeds

Ocean-seeding experiment re-ignites geo-engineering debate

Destroy the planet to save it…

Application security programs and practises

German researchers have re-ignited debate over geo-engineering by saying that “seeding” oceans with iron is an effective way to lock up CO2.

While the principle behind seeding is simple enough – the iron acts as a fertilizer for phytoplankton, which multiply and consume carbon dioxide as they grow – the topic is fiercely debated.

The core of the argument is also simple: it’s probably impossible to predict what other environmental impacts phytoplankton fertilization would have.

The researchers, led by Victor Smetacek from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, are reporting the results of a 2004 experiment in Nature (discussion here, abstract here).

The team used a 60 km eddy in the Southern Ocean as the site for the experiment, scattering seven tonnes of iron sulphate particles which developed into a giant diatom plankton bloom. What the researchers are now reporting is that the majority of the bloom, when it died, sank to the deep ocean (below a depth of 1,000 meters).

The ocean is the world’s largest carbon sink, but much of the carbon captured remains close to the surface and is soon returned to the atmosphere. By capturing CO2 in organisms that sink to the deep ocean, the group says carbon could be sequestered at the bottom of the ocean for centuries.

If the dead phytoplankton became part of ocean-floor sediments, Smetacek writes, the sequestration could last even longer.

The problem is this: other impacts of geo-engineering – particularly on a scale sufficient to make an appreciable difference to the climate – are complete unknowns.

Hence, as AFP reports, British professor John Shepherd warns that the report “does not address the potential ecological side effects … in what is a poorly understood field.”

Smetacek is aware of the unanswered questions, and told Nature the Alfred Wegener Institute will not conduct any further fertilization experiments. Rather, he says, studies of natural blooms occurring around Antarctic islands could provide more information. ®

Bootnote: Thanks to the reader who corrected my spelling of the research organisation, to the Alfred Wegener Institute. ®

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.