Iron in mineral dust particles vital to ocean life says new paper in Journal Science.
Iron in seawater dramatically promotes the growth of phytoplankton, the grass of vast ocean pastures.
Their growth repurposes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere into new ocean life. Iron in mineral dust empowers the ocean pastures to soak up CO2.
For a long time now ocean science dogmatists have tried to force Mother Nature into behaving like a simplistic freshman chemistry test tube experiment. They acknowledged that iron is remarkably able to stimulate ocean photosynthesis but they would only allow that dissolved iron, not the less soluble mineral dust forms, could be involved. Bzzzzt!!!
A new paper in the Journal Science Advances (23 June 2017) shows that despite particulate iron’s low solubility in seawater the abundance of such particulate iron in the ocean is key to all of ocean life. Further, the quantity of iron rather than its chemical signature is responsible for the rate of phytoplankton growth.
It seems Mother Nature (and the late great John Martin) figured this out billions of years ago and only now have some puny humans acquiesced to her prowess for managing life on and in this blue planet.
An interdisciplinary team of scientists led by Elizabeth M. Shoenfelt and Benjamin Bostick of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has discovered that particulate iron does potently stimulate phytoplankton growth, and that the chemical form that particulate iron takes is critical to ocean photosynthesis—not just the quantity of iron available.
The team found that the iron in the ultra-fine particle sizes that comes from glaciers is better at promoting phytoplankton growth and photosynthesis than larger particulate iron containing dust from other sources. This means that glaciers may play a larger role in the carbon cycle than had been thought.
“It’s not that soluble iron doesn’t matter, but particulates, which are the biggest components of the iron in the ocean, can do quite a bit,” said Bostick.
The findings, published in the June 23 edition of the journal Science Advances, show that in lab culture, a well-studied coastal diatom grows equally well with particulate iron versus soluble iron. More so it grows up to 2.5 times faster, and with greater photosynthetic efficiency, when fed a form of particulate iron produced by the grinding of glaciers against rock. The authors estimate that the carbon uptake rates of the diatoms consuming glacier-produced ultra-fine iron containing mineral dust would be five times higher than those consuming non-glacier iron when enhanced growth and photosynthesis rates are combined.
Earlier research, especially that of ocean iron pioneer John Martin, had shown that during glacial periods, ocean concentrations of iron from mineral dust tend to rise. Glaciers grind up iron-rich bedrock that lies beneath the ice when they extend and recede through seasonal cycles. The resulting iron dust is carried on the wind out to sea. But no one had connected the chemical forms of iron found in glacier-produced dust versus other forms to phytoplankton photosynthesis.
“Basically glaciers make fertilizer for the ocean,” said Bostick. “We show that it’s not just how much dust the glaciers make, but the fact that the glaciers grind up certain kinds of rocks that makes a big difference.”
The research team took the so-called glaciogenic dust they used in lab culture from South America’s Patagonia region. But they said that the mineralogy of glaciogenic dust is similar around the world. The water they used came from the Southern Ocean.
The team’s results set up a number of avenues for future research. These include studying the geological record to identify changes in the chemical forms of iron available in the ocean over time, and matching those to glacial fluctuations, said Bostick. He said further study could use genetics to study how diatoms use iron rich mineral dust.
“We’d like to know mechanistically how it’s happening,” said Bostick. “This allows you to understand how the system can be manipulated, so we can know how the environment would respond.”
Call To Action – Imitating Mother Nature – Become The Iceberg
The crisis in the world’s ocean is wrought by our high and rising CO2 and that CO2 effect but it is potentially able to being the principal mechanism that influences global warming and climate change. It is clear that the oceans being harmed first and foremost by our CO2 are where we should also be acting first and foremost to mitigate our deadly impact.
The amount of dust circulating in the world’s air is today greatly diminished by the global greening effect of CO2 in supporting more growth of plants on land, read more “ground cover.” More grass growing means less dust blowing! Here’s a link to a report on a recent scientific paper confirming the cataclysmic decline in global dust.
The most immediate and practical means to help the oceans is to replenish the dust we are denying them and our dust, just like the iceberg dust will nourish and sustain ocean pasture plankton. That phyto-plankton will repurpose our menacing CO2 into new ocean life. This is no sailors dream it is a proven safe, sustainable, low cost, and immediately deployable methodology as seen in my 2012 demonstration in the North Pacific. There my small 50,000 sq. km. dust fed ocean pasture, by iceberg comparison, restored and revived a dying ocean pasture.
Extensive scientific data collected at and under the sea and via satellite over months of monitoring the ocean pasture before, during, and after, its bloom cycle confirmed It Just Worked! But the best evidence by far was when the very next year in Alaska where fishers were expected to have a good year and catch 50 million Pink Salmon instead they caught 226 million Pinks, that swam into their nets from their lovingly restored ocean pasture, the largest catch in all of history!
In the Southern Ocean if a single of my ocean dusting ships is deployed each summer to act in tandem with the glaciers and giant icebergs billions of tonnes of our CO2 would be repurposed into new ocean life. The cost would be a few million dollars per year but the effect would be, as the icebergs have shown us, marvellous and effective. Compared to the cost in new climate taxes approved by 195 nations at the recent Paris Climate Summit collecting many TRILLIONS of dollars each year of climate/carbon taxes to accomplish less at some time in the distant future I think this is a far better idea! Join me.
We simply have to choose do we want our CO2 to menace the ocean with ocean acidification and ocean death or do we choose ocean life. Worried if verdant ocean pastures and their plankton blooms will harm instead of help ocean life… ask a penguin!
Read more at Science Advances http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/3/6/e1700314