The Role of Iron Fertilization in the Fight Against Climate Change

Bronwen Rowe \ Oceans First, Issue 4, 2017, pgs. 35-42.  Download PDF


The input of continental dust plays an important role in biogeochemical cycles in the ocean. This paper brings together information from iron fertilization experiments as well as natural event observations (such as the natural input of continental dust into the ocean, or volcanoes) to highlight how understanding the ramifications of continental dust input into the ocean can be applied to combat climate change. Scientists use the radioactive isotope Thorium-232 as a proxy to determine the input of continental dust into the ocean, and volcanic events are studied to observe the results of a large iron input. The “Iron Fertilization Hypothesis” is proposed as a carbon sink to remove excess CO2 from the atmosphere. It is done by seeding the ocean with iron, a nutrient that limits phytoplankton growth in high nutrient low chlorophyll (HNLC) areas, such as the Southern Ocean. After reviewing the pros and cons of iron fertilization, it was determined that iron fertilization should be considered to combat climate change, but it needs to undergo more testing and research. Areas for further study include toxic blooms, the amount of biomass that is reaches the seafloor (via sediment cores) and if ocean iron fertilization is legal or considered ocean dumping.