Ocean Fertilization: what you need to know

ocean fertilization

Table of Contents

Ocean fertilization is adding nutrients, such as iron, to the ocean to promote the growth of phytoplankton, which are tiny plant-like organisms that form the base of the marine food web. Phytoplankton plays a vital role in the ocean’s ecosystem and absorbs large amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Therefore, fertilization of the sea is considered a potential strategy to fight the effects of climate change by removing CO2 from the atmosphere.

Ocean fertilization can take several forms, including adding iron to the ocean to stimulate phytoplankton growth or adding other nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorus. Iron is particularly effective in promoting phytoplankton growth because it is typically the limiting nutrient in the ocean, meaning that phytoplankton growth is limited by iron availability.

There are several ways to add iron to the ocean, including directly injecting iron particles into the sea or adding iron to the ocean as a dissolved solution. However, the most common method is to add iron in the form of iron-rich dust, which is blown into the sea by the wind. This dust can come from natural sources, such as desert dust, or artificially generated, such as from Ocean-based Climate Solutions, Inc’s climate technology, the ocean upwelling pump, which transfers nutrients such as phosphate, nitrate, silicate, and trace minerals like iron from the twilight zone (200 meters depth) to the sunlit surface version to fertilization the ocean.  The technology does not require the sprinkling of nutrients, it comes naturally from the ocean and is considered the most scalable approach to ocean fertilization, as they convert CO2 into ocean fish food, boosting fish populations and sequestering CO2. 

Fertilization of the sea has been proposed as a means of removing CO2 from the atmosphere, but it is still subject to controversy. While it is believed that ocean fertilization can remove vast amounts of CO2 from the atmosphere, it is still being determined how much CO2 will be permanently removed from the atmosphere and how much will be re-released. Additionally, ocean fertilization can have unintended consequences, such as creating dead zones in the ocean where oxygen levels are too low to support marine life.

Another concern is that ocean fertilization may lead to an overproduction of phytoplankton, which can decrease the ocean’s oxygen levels. This can cause problems for marine life and can also lead to the production of harmful algal blooms.

Despite these concerns, ocean fertilization is still considered a promising strategy for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and fighting global warming. However, more studies are needed to fully understand ocean fertilization’s potential impacts and develop effective methods for controlling and monitoring it.
It’s important to note that ocean fertilization is still an experimental technology and should be cautiously approached. Many scientists, regulators, and environmental organizations are concerned about the potential negative impacts of ocean fertilization and consider that more research is needed before any large-scale deployment.

In conclusion, ocean fertilization is a potential strategy for removing CO2 from the atmosphere and mitigating the effects of climate change. However, more studies are needed to fully understand ocean fertilization’s potential impacts and develop effective methods for controlling and monitoring it. It is essential to approach this technology cautiously and consider all possible implications before any large-scale deployment.