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Fw: [CCG] Attempt to Sequester CO2 Via Phytoplankton

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  • npat1@juno.com
    ... From: Green Bean To: All Energy Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2004 15:38:15 -0800 (PST) Subject: [CCG] Attempt to
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 5, 2004
      --------- Forwarded message ----------
      From: Green Bean <greenb3an@...>
      To: All Energy <all-energy@yahoogroups.com>
      Date: Thu, 5 Feb 2004 15:38:15 -0800 (PST)
      Subject: [CCG] Attempt to Sequester CO2 Via Phytoplankton


      Climate test sets sail
      Will throwing iron in the ocean help stop global
      26 January 2004


      Researchers have embarked on a test to see whether
      dumping iron into the ocean can help remove carbon
      dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, possibly
      alleviating global warming.

      The controversial idea has been tested in small-scale
      projects before. But it has never been clear whether
      it would actually work, in part because it is
      difficult to track exactly what happens to the
      ecosystem after iron is added to the water. Now
      scientists intend to watch a large patch of ocean for
      a relatively long period of time in an attempt to find

      The iron is expected to feed the growth of
      phytoplankton - single-celled algae that live in the
      sunlit upper layers of the sea - in areas where they
      are limited by little natural iron in the water.

      As phytoplankton grow, they absorb CO2 from the
      atmosphere in order to photosynthesize. Phytoplankton
      are currently responsible for almost half of the
      overall photosynthetic activity on Earth. Some
      researchers think that increasing their activity would
      be a good way to reduce the concentration of CO2 in
      the atmosphere, helping to slow the rate of global

      But the phytoplankton will only remove CO2 from the
      air permanently if they die and sink to the bottom of
      the sea, says Victor Smetacek, a biological
      oceanographer at the Alfred Wegener Institute for
      Polar and Marine Research in Bremerhaven, Germany.

      This might not happen. Instead, the phytoplankton
      could be eaten by zooplankton - miroscopic
      invertebrates that feed on algae. The zooplankton
      could in turn be eaten by larger sea creatures, which
      would release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere
      by respiration. In that case, adding iron to the ocean
      would not decrease the amount of CO2 in the

      Smetacek and 48 colleagues set sail last Wednesday on
      the German research vessel Polarstern to investigate
      what really happens.

      The team plans to dissolve an iron sulphate solution
      in a in a 150-200 square-kilometre patch of the
      Southern Ocean, near Antarctica, where currents are
      expected to keep the iron within a limited area. The
      team will then monitor the growth of phytoplankton
      from a helicopter, and examine which kinds of algae
      and other creatures flourish for a period of eight to
      ten weeks.

      "We need to find out whether the algae die after the
      bloom and sink down to the ocean floor," says
      Smetacek. "Only then we can be sure that the carbon is
      permanently removed from the atmosphere."

      Researchers caution that even if the plan does prove
      capable of reducing CO2 levels in the atmosphere, many
      ecologists are concerned that interference with the
      marine food chain could have a dramatic and negative
      impact on ocean ecology1. Further studies will be
      needed to resolve those issues.

      1. Schiermeier, Q. Climate change: The oresmen.
      Nature, 421, 109 - 110, doi:10.1038/421109a (2003).


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