Climate Hacking Scheme Could Load the Ocean With Neurotoxins
2010 03 20

By Andrew Moseman | DiscoverMagazine.com

Of all the planet hacking possibilities floated as last-minute ways to stave off a climate catastrophe (building a solar shade for the Earth, injecting the atmosphere with sunlight-reflecting aerosols, etc.), iron seeding seems one of the more practical and feasible ideas. The scheme calls for the fertilization of patches of ocean with iron to spur blooms of plankton, which eventually die, sink, and sequester carbon at the seafloor.


Twelve small experiments over the last decade in several ocean locations (red dots) consistently showed that intentionally adding iron results in phytoplankton blooms. (Data courtesy of NASA SeaWiFS Project.)

However, worries over the consequences of tinkering with the ocean ecosystem have held up plans to attempt this. And now, in a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers claim that such a plan could risk putting a neurotoxin into the food chain.

Iron seeders have targeted the large swaths of ocean surface with high levels of nitrate and low chlorophyll, where an injection of iron could potentially turn a dearth of plankton into a bloom. But too many phytoplankton can be a bad thing, especially when it comes to members of the genus Pseudonitzschia. This alga produces domoic acid, which it spews into the surrounding seawater to help it ingest iron [ScienceNOW].
Sea lions off California have gotten sick from the toxin. In Canada, three people died in the 1980s from eating shellfish that themselves had eaten Pseudonitzschia.

Seeding experiments—about a dozen have taken place so far—had not shown the production of domoic acid. But oceanographer Charles Trick was not convinced, because those previous tests had harvested the plankton in the ocean but not tested them until the researchers returned to shore. So, for their study, the researchers examined water samples taken from open-ocean tracts in the sub-Arctic North Pacific Ocean where iron-fertilization experiments were conducted [AFP]. The results were not encouraging.

Pseudonitzschia collected in midocean and subjected to shipboard experiments produced plenty of domoic acid. “We found there is a lot of toxin out there,” he said. “If we were to seed with iron, the amount of toxin would go up” [The New York Times]. In fact, Trick says, the concentration of Pseudonitzschia doubled, which increased how much domoic acid was in the water. In turn, the preponderance of the acid allows more Pseudonitzschia to grow, in a sort of feedback circle.

Trick says he doesn’t think the acid would make it all the way up the food chain to people, though birds might ingest it. But, he says, this is another sign that tinkering on the planetary scale can be fraught with unintended consequences.


The brilliant swirls of green and blue in the midst of the deep, blue Atlantic Ocean off Argentina were created by multitudes of tiny marine plants (phytoplankton) that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere to grow. Intentionally adding iron to the ocean would fertilize more phytoplankton blooms. Could this help reduce the buildup of greenhouse gases? (Image courtesy of NASA)



Phytoplankton blooms draw down carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They are eaten by zookplankton, which produce pellets and aggregates of carbon-containing fecal matter (above), which sink into the depths, where the carbon can be sequestered from the atmosphere. How much carbon would actually be sequestered via ocean iron fertilization is an open question.


Article from: DiscoverMagazine.com



Related Articles
Fertilizing the Ocean with Iron
EPA has Announced that Greenhouse Gases are a Danger to Human Health
75 Reasons to be Skeptical of "Global Warming"
Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995
The war over ’Snowmageddon’ Global warming, huh?
NASA Global Warming Alarmist Endorses Book That Calls For Mass Genocide
John Coleman’s hourlong news special “Global Warming – The Other Side”
Big freeze could signal global warming ’pause’ (Nice recovery!)
U.K. Citizens Wish Global Warming was True (Video)
The Church of Global Warming
Leading Global Warming Crusader: Cap and Trade May INCREASE CO2 Emissions
Former UN Environmental Advisor, Peter Taylor, gives a brief discussion about solar cycles and climate science. (Video)


Latest News from our Front Page

Tiny Micro Robots Build Things in ‘Microfactory’
2014 04 17
The teenie-weeniest robot uprising ever might be sooner rather than later due to the work of research institute SRI. Don’t let these microbots’ size fool you, there is power in numbers and thousands of the robots can work together to perform tasks at dizzying speed. From ReCode.net: SRI International has developed a new generation of ant-like robots that can work as ...
’We are not dead yet’: Heartbreaking text messages sent from schoolchildren trapped aboard South Korean ferry
2014 04 17
Passengers on board the South Korean ferry sent heartbreaking messages to their family members just moments before it sank. Children waiting to be rescued frantically reached for their phones as the boat began to list in a bid to communicate with their loved ones a final time. Twenty-four people, including five students and two teachers, have been found dead, but 272 are ...
"A world of pure imagination": How Occupy turned to "anarchy"
2014 04 17
In the closing ceremonies of London’s 2012 Summer Olympics, comedian Russell Brand, perched atop the Beatles’ "Magical Mystery Tour" bus, opened his performance by singing the first lines of "Pure Imagination" from the movie Willy Wonka: Come with me And you’ll be In a world of Pure imagination ...
Artists ’have structurally different brains’
2014 04 17
Artists have structurally different brains compared with non-artists, a study has found. Participants’ brain scans revealed that artists had increased neural matter in areas relating to fine motor movements and visual imagery. The research, published in NeuroImage, suggests that an artist’s talent could be innate. But training and environmental upbringing also play crucial roles in their ability, the authors report. As in many areas ...
NSA-proof email service goes online
2014 04 17
A new email service that protects its users from the prying eyes of the NSA and other spy agencies has gone online. The service’s creators say it will make encrypted messaging accessible to all and curtail internet snooping. Germany-based Lavaboom was inspired by Lavabit, the encrypted email service that was believed to have been used by whistleblower Edward Snowden before it ...
More News »