We discuss and comment on the role agriculture will play in the containment of the CO2 problem and address protocols for terraforming the planet Earth.
A model farm template is imagined as the central methodology. A broad range of timely science news and other topics of interest are commented on.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
Deep Sea Iron Fertilization Productive
It is clear from this that
fertilization of the sea with some form of bio available iron is a desirable activity.It simply does not promise to be cheap unless
it becomes part of another naturally economic process such as deep sea fish
I have made some speculations on
prospective technologies that would have economic value and could also support
fertilization.Most involve clever ways
of harnessing deep water into a natural plume to provide nutrients and power.Placed properly they could even suppress
hurricanes.Again at this point it is
dreaming in Technicolor.
None of this easily puts iron in
the sea.So far I see no easy answer
likely to justify the initial outlay.
In the meantime we at least can
be comfortable that it is desirable.
Natural iron fertilisation influences deep-sea ecosystems off the
Geo-engineering schemes aimed at tackling global warming through artificial
iron fertilisation of the oceans would significantly affect deep-sea
ecosystems, according to research involving scientists from the United
Kingdom's National Oceanography Centre(NOC)
as well as former Ocean and Earth Science research students of the University
of Southampton, which is based at the Centre.
Most scientists believe that the rapid increase in atmospheric carbon
dioxide resulting largely from the burning of fossil fuels is causing the world
to warm up. One proposed geo-engineering scheme aimed at mitigating global
warming is ocean iron fertilisation, the ecological consequences of which are
as yet inadequately understood.
Biological production in the oceans is dominated by phytoplankton
growth in the sunlit surface waters. Through the process of photosynthesis,
these tiny marine plants draw large amounts of carbon dioxide down from the
atmosphere. When they die, some of the carbon assimilated in their bodies is
exported to the deep ocean. Boosting this 'biological carbon pump' could in
principle reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Phytoplankton growth in many areas of the open ocean is limited by
the low availability of iron, despite the presence of high concentrations of
other nutrients. Relatively small-scale experiments have shown that fertilising
such areas with iron increases phytoplankton growth. Therefore, adding large
amounts of iron over long periods of time should increase the magnitude of the
biological carbon pump.
"To get a handle on how long-term, large-scale iron fertilisation
might affect deep-sea ecosystems, we studied natural iron fertilisation off the
Crozet Islands in the southern Indian Ocean,"
said research team member Dr David Billett of NOC.
During a research cruise aboard the RRS Discovery, the researchers
compared two deep-sea regions about 460 kilometres apart and with water depths
of around 4,200 metres. One of these regions received iron naturally leached
from the volcanic islands, leading to a large phytoplankton bloom in the
spring, whereas the other did not. Otherwise, the two sites were similar,
and there were no physical barriers that could stop organisms dispersing
The researchers collected animal samples from trawls and sediment
cores, and used both still and video cameras to survey life on the seafloor.
They also measured the amount of organic material sinking down to the seabed
from the sunlit surface waters, and analysed its chemical composition.
They found that the seabed at the site enjoying natural iron
fertilisation received more organic material over a longer period and of a
higher nutritional value from above than did the iron-limited site. The sinking
organic matter at the former site was also richer in carotenoid pigments
important for sea cucumber reproduction. These differences reflected the
contrasting productivity of the surface waters at the two sites, as well as the
phytoplankton species present.
Due to better organicmatter supply, the seafloor of the iron
fertilised site supported a larger abundance of deep-sea animals such as sea
cucumbers (holothurian echinoderms) and brittle stars (ophiuroid echinoderms
related to starfish). In addition, whereas some sea cucumber and brittle
star species were found at both sites, others prospered only at one or other
site. This resulted in major differences in species composition and evenness,
with the animal community of the seafloor at the iron-fertilised site
resembling that of the productive North East Atlantic,
more than 16,000 kilometres away.
"Our findings show that the timing, quantity and quality of
organic matter reaching the seafloor greatly influences biomass and species'
composition of deep-sea communities off the Crozet Islands, as it does in other
oceanic regions," said Billett. "Because the amount and composition
of sinking organic matter is affected by iron supply to the surface waters, it
is likely that large-scale, long-term artificial iron fertilization, as
envisaged by some geo-engineering schemes, would significantly affect deep-sea
However, whereas natural iron fertilisation increased ecosystem
biomass, there was no evidence of damage due to reduced oxygen concentration at
depth, assuaging the concern that artificial ocean iron fertilisation might
cause the seafloor to become a biodiversity desert due to lack of oxygen.
Wolff, G. A., Billett, D. S. M., Bett, B. J., Holtvoeth, J.,
FitzGeorge-Balfour, T., Fisher, E. H., Cross, I., Shannon, R., Salter, I.,
Boorman, B., King, N. J., Jamieson, A. and Chaillan, F. The effects of natural
iron fertilisation on deep-sea ecology: The Crozet Plateau, Southern
Indian Ocean. PloS One 6(6) (2011): e20697.