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Controversial Plan to Soak Up CO2 in Ocean

An international environmental organization is opposed to a plan to dump iron dust into the ocean near the Galapagos Islands, where it will encourage the growth of plankton, which absorbs carbon dioxide from the air. The tiny sea creatures known as plankton are the main food consumed by whales and are considered to be the bottom rung in the marine food chain.

The dumping would be done as a test by a company called Planktos, Inc., which is obviously conducting this test in hopes of being hired to do similar iron dumps in the future. In LiveScience.com, Andrea Thompson quotes Lara Hansen, of the World Wildlife Fund, as saying, "There are much safer and proven ways of preventing or lowering carbon dioxide levels than dumping iron in the ocean. ?This kind of experimentation with disregard for marine life and the lives of people who rely on the sea is unacceptable." Of special concern is the fact that the Galapagos are home to species which are found nowhere else on earth. But this may be because the ocean area around the islands are ALREADY filled with iron, which comes from the islands themselves.

Thompson quotes the CEO of Planktos, Russ George, as saying, "No amount of iron that humans could add to the ocean could meet with what the Galapagos puts in the ocean.? He adds, ?The plant life in the ocean is collapsing at a rate of 1% per year," which is the same percentage of decline that is occurring in rainforests. George says the rainforests are in "an absolute cataclysmic state of collapse."

Help may be on the way from one of the RESULTS of global warming. Climate change is causing Antarctic ice shelves to shrink and split apart, producing thousands of free-drifting icebergs. It turns out that these drifting icebergs are "ecological hotspots" that cause the water around them to absorb an more carbon dioxide, and the minerals that are released from the melting ice triggers blooms of CO2-absorbing phytoplankton, meaning that this cycle may be somewhat self-healing.

According to a new study, these floating islands of ice?some as large as a dozen miles across?are having a major impact on the ecology of the ocean around them, serving as islands of safety for ocean life, with thriving communities of seabirds above them and a web of plankton, krill, and fish below.

These icebergs may play a surprising role in global climate change. Oceanographer Ken Smith says, "One important consequence of the increased biological productivity is that free-floating icebergs can serve as a route for carbon dioxide drawdown and sequestration of particulate carbon as it sinks into the deep sea."

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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