You heard it here first folks: beating climate change with plankton

There\’s been stuff around for years about how we might beat climate change with iron fertilisation of the oceans. The only argument has ever been over how expensive/efficient it would be.

Now there\’s been the work done to look at another potential addition to the ocean:

Sprinkling billions of tonnes of mineral dust across the oceans could quickly remove a vast quantities of climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a new study.

Good, eh?

The oceans already dissolve billions of tonnes of silicate minerals which flow into the oceans in the sediment carried by rivers. Adding more silicate would alter the species of plankton that grew in the oceans, said Köhler. \”Silicate is a limiting nutrient for diatoms, a specific class of phytoplankton. The added silicate would shift the species composition within phytoplankton towards diatoms.\”

Indeed it is and when it does dissolve it forms silicic acid.

You are absolutely correct. There are only certain parts of the oceans where iron is the one missing nutrient. So this can only be done in certain parts of the oceans.

The next necessary experiment is to look at adding silicic acid as well. Another missing nutrient for diatoms in certain parts of the oceans.

Who knew, eh? The comments section at Forbes is 6 months ahead of Environmental Research Letters.

12 thoughts on “You heard it here first folks: beating climate change with plankton”

  1. Until there’s evidence worth a damn that man’s release of CO2 is going to lead to you’ll-all-roast-in-hell Global Warming, it would be wiser to desist.

  2. The Greens don’t want solutions! They want us all to be punished, because we are miserable CO2 producing sinners. We must be corralled and whipped into Gaia worshipping congregations (with them in control naturally).

  3. Yes and no Tim. According to the paper, the main effect is that the silicate reacts with atmospheric carbon dioxide. Promoting diatom growth is secondary.

    There are two cumulative mechanisms which contribute to the sequestration of carbon with the majority (~92%) caused by ocean chemistry changes due to alkalinity input and a minority (~8%) by the changes in species composition and the biological carbon pumps due to silicic acid input.

    It’s not true that the only question is of expense and effectiveness. It might not be a good idea radically to change ocean biology.

  4. We have an extremely high silicate concentration in the tap water around here (so much that it screws up reverse osmosis equipment). As a result, my aquarium is absolutely stuffed full of diatom algae.

    Does this mean I can get a subsidy for sucking evil carbunz out of the air?

  5. it’s usually such a good idea to mess around with nature, isn’t it? It’s not as if we have any history of creating ecological problems for ourselves…

  6. This sort of thing seriously worries me.

    In an attempt to “fix” a problem nobody understands (if they understood, their models would work, no?), and which quite possibly doesn’t exist at all, they risk causing a real disaster.

    Who knows what unintended consquences might flow from such meddling, or whether we could control them?

    They should read The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and leave well alone.

  7. @7 Andrew Duffin

    It’s very hard to see how you could serious unintended consequences from seeding the sea with silica. There’s already silica going into the sea through natural processes. Which is where the diatoms get it from. So it causes a problematic bloom? So you stop seeding silica & the bloom subsides. There’s no feedback mechanism to reinforce it. The diatoms need the silica to build their skeletons. Stop feeding them & they can’t do so.

  8. BIS you’re thinking sounds just like the people who said all those things about grey squirrels, crown of thorns starfish, that japanese weed, rats in Mauritius…etc….effluent in the great lakes etc…no, it’s worth taking the chance

  9. And silicic acid is in the news too about generating hydrogen from silica. Still not a viable general means of creating energy as creating silica is expensive in energy terms, but might be useful for some situations where fuel cells are used.

  10. Come again? How would one generate hydrogen from silica? And why would anyone go to a lot of trouble to create silica, when the beaches are full of the stuff?

  11. NO! It is a complete non-starter. The scale they are suggesting is in the order of the global coal mining industry. Silicates ground to micron particulate size, and a fleet of tankers to disperse the powdered asbestos (or talc) in the oceans. Diatoms displacing calciferous forms which deposit greater amounts of carbon to the ocean floor. Energy required to run the operation if generated using fossil fuels increases anthropogenic global emissions of CO2 by perhaps a third.

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