Iron Fertilisation Experiments in the Southern Ocean


Vol NO: VOL. 12, ISSUE 70

"Oceans play a key role in shaping global climate by regulating atmospheric concentrations of CO2. However, fossil fuel burning has swamped the natural carbon cycle and it is a challenge for earth system scientists to investigate how ocean uptake can be enhanced by manipulating natural processes responsible for sequestering CO2 from the atmosphere. One such technique, ocean iron fertilisation (OIF), involves fertilising certain ocean regions with trace amounts of iron to stimulate the growth of microscopic plant-like organisms known as phytoplankton, which then die and sink. The ocean iron hypothesis, proposed by John Martin in 1990 (Martin 1990), has been tested by five mesoscale experiments that provided strong support for its first condition: stimulation of a diatom bloom accompanied by significant CO2 drawdown. 

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    Prof V Smetacek and Dr S W A Naqvi

    Of the various macro-engineering schemes proposed to mitigate global warming, ocean iron fertilisation is one that could be started at short notice on relevant scales. It is based on the reasoning that adding trace amounts of iron to iron-limited phytoplankton of the Southern Ocean will lead to blooms, mass sinking of organic matter and ultimately sequestration of significant amounts of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the deep sea and sediments.

    "The authors are Former Professor, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Germany and Senior Scientist, National Institute of Oceanography, Goa. Email:, The article is based on the abstract of a paper titled ‘The Next Generation of Iron Fertilisation Experiments in the Southern Ocean’ by Prof V Smetacek and Dr S W A Naqvi published in ‘Geo-engineering climate change: Environmental necessity or Pandora’s box. ed. by: Launder, B.; Thompson, J.M.T.”, 2010; and, an abstract titled ‘Ocean Iron Fertilisation - an Update Based on the LOHAFEX Experiment’ to be presented by S W A Naqvi in i-SaGAA 2012, New Delhi."

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