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Bad Shrimp!!
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Hungry copepods eat climate change experiment.

I have a great idea for a common sense, sober, and reserved approach to climate change -- let's do nothing at all to curb our fossil fuel use, and simply "fertilize" vast areas of the ocean with dissolved iron!!  That'll stimulate the growth of microorganisms -- which will absorb millions upon millions of pounds of carbon. Then, when the wee beasties die, they'll sink to the ocean floor, carrying all of their carbon with them! 

Yep, that's the painless, no-risk solution to protecting the planet -- involving no sacrifice, and nothing more than a bit of pluck and elbow grease. 

But unfortunately, some enterprising folks just ran a huge ocean fertilization experiment -- and New Scientist reports that it failed miserably:

Earlier this month, the controversial Indian-German Lohafex expedition fertilised 300 square kilometres of the Southern Atlantic with six tonnes of dissolved iron. The iron triggered a bloom of phytoplankton, which doubled their biomass within two weeks by taking in carbon dioxide from the seawater. Dead bloom particles were then expected to sink to the ocean bed, dragging carbon along with them.

Instead, the bloom attracted a swarm of hungry copepods. The tiny crustaceans graze on phytoplankton, which keeps the carbon in the food chain and prevents it from being stored in the ocean sink. Researchers from the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research reported that the copepods were in turn eaten by larger crustaceans called amphipods, which serve as food for squid and fin whales.

In other words, shrimp ate their climate change homework -- gobbling up hopes for massive "carbon offsets" from ocean fertilization.

Which brings us back to plan A -- stop burning so many dang fossil fuels!  Nutty, I know, but it just might work.

[Picture by Flickr user George Morgan.  And it's probably not the same kind of shrimp -- it's just the best picture I could find.]

This piece originally appeared on The Sightline Institute's blog, The Daily Score.
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Science experiments don't "fail miserably." They alter hypotheses and sometimes present an alternative explanation for phenomenon. This experiment had a measurable result that may help science in some other way.

Posted by: ph on 1 Apr 09

What an utterly dishonest report. First off the LohaFex experiment was not a "huge ocean fertilization" test. It was a tiny ocean restoration project. A mere 6 tonnes of iron was added to a scant few hundred sq. km o ocean. Compare this with the 500 million tonnes of iron rich dust that annually land in the Atlantic ocean having blown there from North Africa. Globally more than a billion tonnes of iron rich dust blows from land to sea each year. This dust in the wind which provides mineral micronutrients to the ocean and allows ocean plants to bloom is the counterpart rain that blows in the wind from sea to land helping terrestrial plants bloom.

Do the most simple math 6/1,000,000,000 and imagine tht represents a huge anything.

Calling this fertilization is like calling any medicine you are prescribe fertilization. In fact the iron added to the LohaFex patch of ocean was intended to replenish iron that ought to be there but is no longer do the terrible effects of CO2. So this work is clearly not 'creation' but rather it is 'restoration.' The Southern ocean has lost dust and ocean plant life as shown from studies in the past 30 years. It's been truly decimated with more than 10% of ocean plants there being eliminated due to missing iron and the deadly ocean acidifying effects of CO2. The N. Atlantic and N. Pacific are doubly decimated with 17% and 26% of their ocean plants gone in the same 30 years. The tropical Pacific is worst of all with more than 50% of its plant life gone.

Those missing ocean plants used to be vast ocean pastures upon which all sea life thrived and where each year 4-5 billion tonnes of CO2 was converted into ocean plants and life instead of today's scenarios where in the absence of those ocean plants that CO2 combines with H2O to make H2CO3 carbonic acid. That ocean acidification is the most dire impact of fossil fuels and CO2 and as reported this year! the Southern Ocean will tip over the tipping point of CO2 poisoning and ocean acidification no in some glacially distant time but by 2030 a mere 21 years from now.

So when you hear or read the crowing of the anti ecorestoation cabal who oppose restoration of trees and seas but rather would enforce elimination of fossil fuels consided them for the spins and distorted reports on this field of work.

Posted by: russ on 1 Apr 09

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