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Algae Bloom Experiment in Ocean Goes Ahead Despite Enviro Fears

January 13th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in Algae-CO2-Capture, Algae-Fuel-Research

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A German research ship carrying 20 tons of iron sulfate is currently motoring towards the South Atlantic, and the crew plans to dump its mineral cargo into the ocean in a controversial science experiment. The researchers will be testing a technique called ocean fertilization, in which iron is dumped into nutrient-poor waters to induce a huge blooms of phytoplankton. After the photosynthesizing plankton grows and absorbs carbon dioxide, researchers hope it will die and sink down to the seafloor still bearing that greenhouse gas in a natural form of carbon sequestration.

But the so-called LOHAFEX experiment has raised the ire of some environmentalists, who worry about unknown consequences of interfering with the marine ecosystem. Ocean fertilisation experiments have been carried out on a few occasions in the past, but became controversial in 2007 when a company called Planktos announced it would dump iron fillings [sic] off the coast of the Galapagos islands. Some environmental organisations … expressed concerns that this was tantamount to pollution and, by affecting plankton at the bottom of the food chain could have unforeseen consequences

While environmentalists from the organization ETC Group originally argued that the new experiment is illegal because it violates the UN moratorium, it now appears that the experiment won approval from the German ministry of the environment based on an international maritime convention that allows legitimate scientific research on ocean fertilization. Researchers involved in the project say the experiment will answer crucial questions regarding the procedure’s effectiveness. The new study will address, among other things, marine biology, the flow of carbonaceous particles, and biodiversity questions that have barely been analysed during previous experiments, says [researcher] Karin Lochte. “These are exactly the kind of data you need to assess whether or not large-scale ocean fertilization is justified,” she says

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One Response to “Algae Bloom Experiment in Ocean Goes Ahead Despite Enviro Fears”

  1. ABarrelFull Says:

    The environmentalists are probably more worried that it will work.

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