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Results of ocean iron fertilisation experiment are in

Fertilising the oceans with iron to combat climate change can lock carbon away for centuries, research suggests.
Diatom Chaetoceros atlanticus
Diatom Chaetoceros atlanticus
Substantial proportion of carbon from the induced algal bloom sank to the deep sea floor. These results, which were thoroughly analyzed before being published now, provide a valuable contribution to our better understanding of the global carbon cycle.
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Our knowledge of the role of iron in the global carbon cycle is still far from complete

—Dr. Stefan Hain, environmental policy spokesman of the Alfred Wegener Institute

Iron plays an important role in the climate system. It is involved in many biochemical processes such as photosynthesis and is hence an essential element for biological production in the oceans and, therefore, for CO2 absorption from the atmosphere.

The induced bloom was dominated by diatoms, a group of algae that require dissolved silicon to make their shells and are known to form large, slimy aggregates with high sinking rates at the end of their blooms. The bloom developed in a 100 metre deep mixed layer which is much deeper than hitherto believed to be the lower limit for bloom development.

“We were able to prove that over 50 per cent of the plankton bloom sank below 1000 metre depth indicating that their carbon content can be stored in the deep ocean and in the underlying seafloor sediments for time scales of well over a century“, says Prof. Dr. Victor Smetacek

These results contrast with those of the LOHAFEX experiment carried out in 2009 where diatom growth was limited by different nutrient conditions, especially the absence of dissolved silicon in the chosen eddy. Instead, the plankton bloom consisted of other types of algae which, however, have no protective shell and were eaten more easily by zooplankton.

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Research vessel Polarstern, picture taken in September 2004. Photo: Alfred Wegener Institute
Further reading ► http://www.xray-mag.com/
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