Iron fertilization of the ocean is the simulation of natural processes. Hundreds of years ago there were more whales and humans killed the whales. Large whales pooping in the ocean had the same effect as putting iron sulphate into the ocean.
Iron is key to plankton growth
Iron is a vital micronutrient for phytoplankton growth and photosynthesis. Besides whale poop it has also been delivered to the ocean via dust storms from arid lands. This Aeolian dust contains 3–5% iron and its deposition has fallen nearly 25% in recent decades.
Whales provided a lot of iron before we killed them
It is estimated that the historic worldwide sperm whale population numbered 1,100,000 before commercial sperm whaling began in the early 18th century. We have killed about 70+% of the sperm whales and the population is about 360,000. There are about 5,000 to 12,000 blue whales left from over 300,000 before whaling. We have killed about 97% of the blue whales. Blue Whales eat and poop about 4 tons per day. Humans have slaughtered many other types of whales.
Current Fish levels are depleted compared to history
There also used to be a lot more fish and the fish were bigger. There are many historic tales of schools of fish so thick they slowed boats. When the Europeans first came to North America, the Grand Banks off of Newfoundland were teeming with fish. Now we have nearly wiped out the Atlantic cod. Many fish eat plankton.
Restore ocean iron
Restore ocean plankton
Restore ocean fish levels
Uneaten plankton dies in a week or two and sinks to the bottom of the ocean to sequester billions of tons of CO2.
The feces of krill-eating whales is rich in iron. The release of iron from whale feces encourages the growth of phytoplankton in the sea, which not only benefits the marine food chain, but also sequesters carbon for long periods of time. When phytoplankton, which is not consumed it dies and settles down to the sea floor. Phytoplankton sequesters an estimated 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the ocean each year, causing the ocean to become a sink of carbon dioxide which holds an estimated 90% of all sequestered carbon. The Southern Ocean is amongst the largest ranges for phytoplankton and has the characteristic of being nutrient-rich in terms of phosphate, nitrate and silicate, while it is iron-deficient at the same time. Increases of nutrient iron results in blooming of phytoplankton. Whale feces is up to 10 million times richer in iron than the surrounding sea water and plays a vital role in providing the iron required for maintaining phytoplankton biomass on the earth. The iron defecation of just the 12,000 strong sperm whale population in the Southern Ocean results in the sequestration of 400,000 tonnes of atmospheric carbon per year. The whale poop of 12,000 sperm whale has 50 tons of iron. 1.1 million sperm whales would sequester 20 million tons of CO2 per year. However it is the phytoplankton which could be increased by 10 to 100 times with iron fertilization to cause algae blooms. This is about 5000 tons of iron.
Adding iron to ocean via humans using boats or whales pooping or dust storms can trigger large phytoplankton blooms on the order of 100,000 kilograms of plankton per kilogram of iron. 5000 tons of iron in Sperm Whale poop could create 500 million tons of plankton.
However, it will take many generations to restore the whale populations. In the mean time humans need to fix the depleted ocean for two reasons
1. Help stop global warming
2. Restore the ocean to levels of fish that existed hundreds of years ago.
Long history of volcanic iron boosting fish yields and 2012 man made iron dump success
Currently iron fertilization is being stopped despite success in 2012.
In 2012, the Haida Salmon Restoration Corporation (HSRC) dumped 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific into an eddy 200 nautical miles west of the islands of Haida Gwaii. This resulted in increased algae growth over 10,000 square miles. Critics alleged George’s actions violated the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the London convention on the dumping of wastes at sea which prohibited such geoengineering experiments. On 15 July 2014, the resulting scientific data was made available to the public.
120 tons of iron compound were deposited in the migration routes of pink and sockeye salmon in the Pacific ocean West of Haida Gwaii over a period of 30 days. The project resulted in a 35,000 km2 plankton bloom that lasted for several months and was confirmed by NASA satellite imagery.
The following year, in 2013, catches of pink salmon from the Pacific Northwest showed a 400% increase over the previous year. The latest estimates for the 2014 Fraser River sockeye run are more than double the numbers for 2010. This would be unprecedented, and would represent by far the biggest ever recorded run of sockeye salmon on the Fraser River.
The number of salmon caught in the northeast Pacific more than quadrupled, going from 50 million to 226 million. In the Fraser River, which only once before in history had a salmon run greater than 25 million fish (about 45 million in 2010), the number of salmon increased to 72 million.
Iron sulphate dumping returned over 100 times the value in fish in one year versus the cost of the dumping.
Iron sulphate dumping returned about 1000 times the weight in increased fish versus the amount of dumped iron sulphate.
Fisheries the world over are in trouble. We must perform large scale ocean tests. It would not be the complete ocean but at the Eddy level.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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