Ship’s smoke ventured unwitting geoengineering experiment

In the World Ocean water deposited tons of iron from the ship's smoke, fertilizing phytoplankton and theoretically allowing it to pump out of the atmosphere more carbon dioxide.

In the North Pacific is a large-scale geoengineering project. You did not know? Yes, no one knew!

Nobody planned annual discharge into the water about a thousand tons of iron on the area of 6,000,000 km ², but that is what is happening there.

The main routes of world shipping (image The Royal Society).

One of the most well-known geo-engineering solutions to the problem of global warming is to fertilize the water oceans with iron in order to trigger a boom thus phytoplankton, which in the process of photosynthesis would be pumped out of the atmosphere once the carbon dioxide. But this is only a theory. In fact, the ocean — a complex system, and therefore the positive effect is unlikely to be the only one. For the same reason, it is difficult to control the experiment. Doubts have meant that in 2010 the UN Convention on Biological Diversity imposed a moratorium on such experiments.

But the oceans continue to roam the ship, and no one so far has forbidden them to fill the water with iron. Akinori Ito of Japan Science and Technology Management land and sea for the first time calculated the impact of ships on those areas of the ocean where iron deficiency. Estimated to previous models, only 1-2% of iron contained in aerosols (including emissions of maritime transport) is dissolved in sea water, and the rest falls to the bottom, without affecting the local livestock. But Mr. Ito found that, in fact up to 80% soluble ship soot. Sitting down on the ocean surface, it is likely fertilizes it.

In the high latitudes of the North Pacific Ocean (this area is poor in iron from natural causes, so the pollution there has to be particularly noticeable) on ship emissions account for 70% of the dissolved iron in water from human sources. The rest — the burning of biomass and coal. Over time, when (and if) the extent of shipping will increase, and the emissions from the combustion of biomass and coal are limited by law, ship share will increase.

What conclusion can be drawn from this random experiment? No, says Alex Baker of the University of East Anglia. After all, he proceeds unchecked: do not compare.

Specialists think that at current ship iron is not harmful. But we must not forget that no one knows for sure what should be the level of iron to the ecosystem began to suffer or that we feel the benefits of pulling out of the atmosphere of carbon dioxide.

The study is published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles.

Prepared according to NewScientist.

Category: Ecology

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