Ocean fertilization against climate change: A questionable ocean sience experiment with a clear result
As on 7 January 2009 Germany’s largest research vessel, the “Polar Star”, from Cape Town towards the Southern Ocean set sail, the world still seemed in order. A little later, broke through the responsible Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI) in Bremerhaven, and the researchers on board a storm of indignation come.
The “Polar Star” was carrying 20 tons of iron sulfate, which were part of a big experiment for ocean fertilization at 200 to 300 square kilometers of sea area in the lake area spread northeast of South Georgia. This dissolved iron is a nutrient for plant plankton in the Southern Ocean and is otherwise in short supply.
To what extent will help the algae to proliferate through the iron fertilizer, thereby bind more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and so the slow down climate change? Above all, the researchers want to investigate.
Ocean fertilization for the reduction of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has been controversial for several years. The WWF criticized the project in light of recent political decisions: The Conference of Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity was agreed in May 2008, chaired by Federal Environment Minister Gabriel in Bonn just a moratorium on commercial ocean fertilization.Scientific experiments in the open sea should remain on “small scale” experiments “in coastal waters” limited. More detailed guidelines will elaborate the Parties to the London Convention for the Prevention of Marine Pollution (LC / LP) later this year.
The conservationists caution is justified: ocean fertilization on a large scale would alter the species composition in the oceans, leading to loss of biological diversity and spread of harmful species of plankton and oxygen deficiency. This assumes the risk to the marine environment not controlled by a single experiment, but the sum of commercial imitators who want to pursue emissions trading.
No carbon-lift to the deep sea
Meanwhile, the AWI Arctic researchers have published their results – and they are unambiguous: An iron fertilization in the Southern Ocean to reduce the anthropogenic greenhouse effect is inappropriate. Although the algae proliferated in the experiment, but the less-awaited diatoms (diatoms) than other species. But these were destroyed by copepods increased. Thus found no carbon-awaited transport instead of the deep sea.
But even the most desirable diatoms – Chosen by researchers carbon-lifts in the deep ocean – are likely to be recycled as minerals and thus form no lasting carbon cemetery on the seabed.
“The Antarctic deep sea is not a repository for our civilization exhaust. For that reason alone, because even decide minimal changes in water stratification and nutrient ratios as to whether a type of algae blooms in masses, in their biomass, the CO2 remains permanently bound or not. To save our climate, so we need less technological, but finally more solid political solutions, “said WWF’s marine expert Stephan Lutter.