A solution to hypercapnia? A new study suggests fertilizing the ocean

Ocean fertilization to store carbon dioxide

Seeding the oceans with nano-fertilizers might create an enormous, much-needed carbon sink. Credit score: Illustration by Stephanie King | Pacific Northwest Nationwide Laboratory

Iron-based fertilizers within the type of nanoparticles have the potential to retailer extra carbon dioxide within the ocean.

A global crew of researchers led by Michael Hochela of Pacific Northwest Nationwide Laboratory It’s recommended that the usage of microorganisms may very well be an answer to satisfy the pressing have to take away extra carbon dioxide from the Earth’s surroundings.

The crew performed an evaluation revealed within the journal Nature’s Nanotechnologyon the potential for sowing seeds for the oceans with iron-rich engineered fertilizer particles close to ocean plankton, microscopic crops vital to the ocean ecosystem, to boost progress and uptake of carbon dioxide by phytoplankton.

“The concept is to enhance current processes,” mentioned Hochella, a lab fellow on the Pacific Northwest Nationwide Laboratory. People have been fertilizing the land to develop crops for hundreds of years. We will be taught to fertilize the oceans responsibly.”

Michael Hochela

Michael Hochela is an internationally acknowledged environmental geochemist. Credit score: Virginia Tech Photographic Companies

In nature, vitamins from land attain the oceans via rivers and blow up mud to fertilize plankton. The analysis crew proposes taking this pure course of a step additional to assist take away extra carbon dioxide from the ocean. They’ve studied proof that including particular combos of rigorously designed supplies can successfully fertilize the oceans, encouraging phytoplankton to behave as a carbon sink. Residing organisms will soak up carbon in massive portions. Then, after they die, they’ll sink to the depths of the ocean, taking the surplus carbon with them. Scientists say this proposed fertilization would merely pace up a pure course of that’s already safely sequestering carbon in a kind that would take away it from the ambiance for 1000’s of years.

“At this level, time is of the essence,” Hochela mentioned. “To fight rising temperatures, we should scale back carbon dioxide ranges on a worldwide scale. Contemplating all of our choices, together with utilizing the oceans as a carbon dioxide sink, provides us the very best probability of cooling the planet.”

Extract insights from the literature

Of their evaluation, the researchers argued that engineered nanoparticles supply a number of engaging options. Extremely controllable and specifically designed for various ocean environments. Floor coatings might help particles stick with plankton. Some particles even have light-absorbing properties, permitting plankton to devour and use extra carbon dioxide. The final method may also be tuned to satisfy the wants of particular ocean environments. For instance, one space would possibly profit extra from iron-based particles, whereas silicon-based particles is perhaps simpler in others, they are saying.

The researchers’ evaluation of 123 revealed research confirmed that a number of non-toxic mineral oxygen substances can safely promote plankton progress. They argue that the steadiness, abundance of land, and ease of creation of those supplies make them viable choices as plankton fertilizers.

The crew additionally analyzed the price of creating and distributing completely different molecules. Whereas the method can be rather more costly than including non-engineered supplies, it’s going to even be considerably extra environment friendly.

Reference: “Potential Use of Engineered Nanoparticles in Ocean Fertilization for Massive-Scale Elimination of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide” by Peyman Babakhani, Tannabon Vinrat, Mohamed Balousha, Colaba Suratana, Caroline L. Peacock, Benjamin S. Twining, Michael F. Hochela Jr. Nov. 28, 2022, Accessible right here. Nature’s Nanotechnology.
DOI: 10.1038/s41565-022-01226-w

Along with Hochella, the crew included researchers from England, Thailand, and a number of other US-based analysis establishments. The research was funded by the European Analysis Council beneath the European Union’s Analysis and Innovation Program Horizon 2020.

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