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Oceans, Iron & Oil – Connect the dots

September 3rd, 2006 | 1 Comment | Posted in Algae-CO2-Capture

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I must thank Tom Catino for sending in this rather intriguing piece of input. He sent me an article from Moss Landing Marine Laboratory studies @ California State University

To give a brief background, these researchers were conducting studies on sequestering carbon-di-oxide – that is carbon-di-oxide absorption and locking-up thus reducing that much amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. As you can understand, this is an important topic in itself, given the massive increases in CO2 in our atmosphere owing to the twin effects of increased pollution and decreased forest covers. However, what is of specific interest to us is this:

“..the scientists added iron to surface waters in two square patches, each 15 kilometers on a side, so that concentrations of this micronutrient reached about 50 parts per trillion. This concentration, though low by terrestrial standards, represented a 100-fold increase over ambient conditions, and triggered massive phytoplankton blooms at both locations. These blooms covered thousands of square kilometers, and were visible in satellite images of the area…”

The research further indicates that “…even where silicic acid levels are low, iron fertilization can result in blooms of phytoplankton such as dinoflagellates and prymneseophytes, which do not require silicon for growth yet still consume vast amounts of carbon dioxide.”

This research was conducted in 2002, and there is a mention of this research in three research articles in the April 16 issue of Science, and is featured on the magazine’s cover…(citation: Kenneth H. Coale, et al. Southern ocean iron enrichment experiment: carbon cycling in high-and low-Si waters. Science. Vol. 304 #5669 (April 16, 2004)).

As I said earlier, perhaps there could be a connection between Iron, Oceans and Oil? If iron fertilisation could result in massive blooms of desired algae (this is still a question-mark, since we do not know what all species of algae respond to iron fertilisation, only a couple of them are mentioned in the article), then algae cultilvation in open seas is worth having a look at. Currently, from what I understand, using oceans for oil-bearing algal cultivation is not considered to be a feasible idea.

Your ideas are welcome, thanks again to Tom for pointing it out.

You can read the full article on Moss Landing Marine Laboratories experiments here

Useful reference web sites: Planktos

Keywords for the article: Antarctica, Iron Fertilisation, Phytoplantkon, Ice Age, Southern Ocean Iron Enrichment Experiments (SOFeX), Iron-rich dust, Silicic acid, Dinoflagellates, prymneseophytes, Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Personalities mentioned: Dr. Kenneth Coale of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML), Dr. Ken Johnson of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), Dr. Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Dr. Jim Bishop of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories

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One Response to “Oceans, Iron & Oil – Connect the dots”

  1. Anonymous Says:

    Ummm … the algae bloom sequesters carbon as calcium carbonate — the tiny shells of the diatoms that are part of the bloom sink to the seabed, and other organisms end up sinking into the deep ocean. A phytoplankton or algae bloom will DECREASE the amount of dissolved CO2 — they don't stick leaves above the surface of the water to get it straight from the atmosphere!

    What DO they teach in science class these days?


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