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Scientists, policymakers and industry leaders gather to discuss ocean iron fertilization
Date:9/25/2007

On September 26-27, scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) will host an international, interdisciplinary conference on the proposed iron fertilization of the ocean as a means to combat rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Several times over the past century, scientists and environmental engineers have proposed spreading slurries of dissolved iron into the oceans in order to fertilize the waters and promote vast blooms of marine plants (phytoplankton). Phytoplankton consume carbon dioxide as they grow, and this growth can be stimulated in certain ocean basins by the addition of iron, a necessary micronutrient.

Though common on land, dissolved iron is often rare in the ocean. Some researchers and commercial interests have recently proposed to provide that missing nutrient on a large scale in order to create artificial blooms. Theory holds that if you make such blooms large enough, you could remove excess carbon dioxide from Earths atmosphere and carry it down into the deep ocean as organic matter (such as fecal pellets and dead plankton) sinks, thereby reducing the impact of greenhouse gases and global warming.

There are many critical questions that require both better scientific understanding and an improved legal, economic, and political framework before iron fertilization can be considered either effective or appropriate, said Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist in WHOIs Marine Chemistry and Geochemistry Department and a participant in two iron fertilization experiments at sea. The time is right to bring scientists, policymakers, and commercial interests together to inform each other and the public.

Scientists took a serious interest in the idea in the late 1980s after oceanographer John Martin famously told colleagues: Give me half a tanker of iron and Ill give you the next ice age. Iron fertilization has since been tested in at least a dozen experiments around the world. The
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Contact: WHOI Media Relations
media@whoi.edu
508-289-3340
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
Source:Eurekalert

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