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Ocean Fertilization

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What is ocean fertilization?

Ocean fertilization is characterized as a way to use to ocean as a carbon sink through the introduction of iron to the water, theoretically reducing the release of carbon into the atmosphere and therefore reducing global warming. This theory of iron fertilization has been around since the 1920’s and was made popular by John Martin of WHOI in the 1980’s. Martin proposed two hypotheses with the first being that high nutrient, low chlorophyll (HNLC) areas are that way due to inefficient amounts of iron concentrations. His second hypothesis was that if iron did direct the yield in high nutrient, low chlorophyll waters and also absorb organic carbon into the depths of the ocean through the use of the biological pump then this could explain the observations made through ice cores he had collected. The ice cores had shown that carbon had a direct relationship with the climatic changes of the planet. Martin proposed, using his hypotheses, that fertilizing the ocean with iron in these HNLC waters could export atmospheric carbon dioxide into the oceanic sediment and seize it for many years.

The Carbon Cycle in reference to the fertilization of the ocean can be simply explained by understanding that phytoplankton uses the carbon dioxide to grow. Carbon dioxide reaches the ocean surface and is photosynthesized by the phytoplankton which in turn grows into larger blooms. These blooms either expire and sink to the bottom or are eaten by zooplankton. The zooplankton respire an amount of carbon dioxide and also release carbon through their fecal pellets which then sink to the bottom. The addition of iron will cause an increase in phytoplankton blooms, such as diatoms, which use up carbon during photosynthesis. The ...

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...ceanus. 2008. Vol. 46, #1, 4-9.

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Sarmiento, J.L., Slater, R.D., & Gnanadesikan, A. “Effects of patchy ocean fertilization on atmospheric carbon dioxide and biological production.” Global Geobiochemical Cycles. 2003. Vol. 17, #2, 19-1 – 19-17.

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Rayfuse, R., Lawrence, M.G., Gjerde, and K.M. “Ocean fertilization and climate change: The need to regulate emerging high seas uses.” The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law. 2008. Vol. 23, 297-326.
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