Virginia Key (FL) - Researchers investigating a proposed "biological pump" solution to curb global warming, one which would fertilize the oceans so that large algal blooms arise, suck carbon dioxide out of the air, and then die and sink to the ocean floor, thereby trapping the carbon, may be fundamentally flawed. The scientists investigating the process say that the original proposal overlooks realities seen in nature.
Researchers wanted to test the theory of algal bloom deposition on the ocean's floor, called carbon sequestering. They began by looking at what nature already does. During the summer months, large algal bloom growths occur naturally, but what they found was that during the summer months the least amount of carbon sinks to the bottom of any season, suggesting that the rest is recycled through normal processes and life. This brings into question the potential benefit of the $100 billion ocean fertilization proposal. If large algal bloom growths do not result in greater carbon deposition on the ocean's floor, then what's the benefit?
Lead author Dr. Michael Lutz, now at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, said, "This discovery is very surprising. If, during natural plankton blooms, less carbon actually sinks to deep water than during the rest of the year, then it suggests that the Biological Pump leaks. More material is recycled in shallow water and less sinks to depth, which makes sense if you consider how this ecosystem has evolved in a way to minimize loss. Ocean fertilization schemes, which resemble an artificial summer, may not remove as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as has been suggested because they ignore the natural processes revealed by this research."