Study looks to iron from microbes for climate help

phys.org | 3/11/2019 | Staff
jolan (Posted by) Level 3
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Distributing iron particles produced by bacteria could "fertilize" microscopic ocean plants and ultimately lower atmospheric carbon levels, according to a new paper in Frontiers.

"It is important that we explore ideas for climate change mitigation that can supplement the effects of decreasing carbon emissions," said David Emerson, a senior research scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences and author of the paper. "The more ideas we test, the better decisions we can make for our planet's future."

Emerson - Paper - Way - Iron - Areas

Emerson's paper proposes a novel way to provide iron to large areas of the ocean, 30 percent of which is poor in the essential element. This method takes advantage of minerals synthesized by iron-oxidizing bacteria, which feed on the tiny spark of energy they generate by transferring electrons between iron and oxygen. This process produces rust minerals as byproducts, which are of the right chemical composition to be used by the tiny ocean plants called phytoplankton that help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Iron-oxidizing bacteria live in environments as extreme as the deep ocean and as common as roadside ditches. Emerson believes that cultivating iron-oxidizing bacteria in shallow ponds could be a simple, inexpensive way to produce nanoparticles of iron that have specific properties needed to "fertilize" the ocean. Using iron fertilization as a climate change mitigation tool was first proposed in the 1990s, and Emerson believes implementing a controlled research program is the next step in exploring its efficacy.

Research - Potential - Disciplines - Phytoplankton - Ecology

"This research has tremendous potential to integrate disciplines from phytoplankton ecology, to atmospheric science, to engineering," Emerson said. "At minimum, we would gain a better sense of how the ocean works. At best, iron additions would act on a short time scale to help mitigate climate change."

Most iron enters the ocean as dust that blows seaward from the Sahara and...
(Excerpt) Read more at: phys.org
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