Airborne iron alters ocean productivity | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 85 Issue 35 | p. 33 | Concentrates
Issue Date: August 27, 2007

Airborne iron alters ocean productivity

Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Nano SCENE, Environmental SCENE

Nicolas Cassar of Princeton University and colleagues have demonstrated that iron-containing aerosols carried by the wind increase biological production in the Southern Ocean, the body of water surrounding Antarctica (Science 2007, 317, 1067). Iron prompts algae to convert CO2 into organic carbon matter that may sink to the deep ocean, a process that could lower atmospheric CO2 concentrations. As shown in previous experiments, iron intentionally added to the Southern Ocean boosts organic matter sinking from surface waters. In the new work, the researchers combined prior observations, new data derived from upper ocean samples, and computer model estimates to show that the ocean's biological productivity also increases as soluble iron blows in on the wind. Cassar and colleagues point out that their results support previous speculations linking greater iron delivery to the oceans and lower CO2 levels during ice ages and that a better understanding of dust transport patterns may help scientists predict future ocean productivity.

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