U.S. Department of Energy Office of Biological and Environmental Research

BER Research Highlights


Iron Fertilization Experiment Leads to Massive Phytoplankton Bloom in the Southern Ocean
Published: April 17, 2002
Posted: April 26, 2002

Office of Science and the National Science Foundation jointly funded the Southern Ocean Iron Experiment (SOFeX), an oceanographic field experiment to determine the effect of the addition of iron on an area south of New Zealand. The increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide and its potential impact on climate has led marine scientists to study the role of the ocean in carbon sequestration. Microscopic marine plants called phytoplankton are responsible for photosynthetic carbon fixation in the ocean. Phytoplankton are naturally limited by the low levels of iron in the Southern Ocean which surrounds the continent of Antarctica. In January-February 2002, three research vessels fertilized two 15 X 15km study sites with dissolved iron and inert chemical tracers to label the "patches," (volumes) of ocean that were first fertilized. The iron produced a bright green phytoplankton bloom that could be seen from space by ocean color satellites. Over 100 SOFeX scientists are now engaged in analyzing samples collected from the fertilized areas of the ocean, as well as modeling, and synthesizing the results to determine the ultimate fate of the fixed carbon associated with the phytoplankton bloom. For iron fertilization to serve as a viable carbon sequestration option, the carbon associated with the bloom would need to sink to the deep ocean and be sequestered for hundreds to thousands of years.

Contact: Anna Palmisano, SC-74, 3-9963
Topic Areas:

  • Research Area: Carbon Cycle, Nutrient Cycling
  • Research Area: Microbes and Communities

Division: SC-23.1 Climate and Environmental Sciences Division, BER
      (formerly SC-74 Environmental Sciences Division, OBER)

 

BER supports basic research and scientific user facilities to advance DOE missions in energy and environment. More about BER

Recent Highlights

May 10, 2019
Quantifying Decision Uncertainty in Water Management via a Coupled Agent-Based Model
Considering risk perception can improve the representation of human decision-making processes in age [more...]

May 09, 2019
Projecting Global Urban Area Growth Through 2100 Based on Historical Time Series Data and Future Scenarios
Study provides country-specific urban area growth models and the first dataset on country-level urba [more...]

May 05, 2019
Calibrating Building Energy Demand Models to Refine Long-Term Energy Planning
A new, flexible calibration approach improved model accuracy in capturing year-to-year changes in bu [more...]

May 03, 2019
Calibration and Uncertainty Analysis of Demeter for Better Downscaling of Global Land Use and Land Cover Projections
Researchers improved the Demeter model’s performance by calibrating key parameters and establi [more...]

Apr 22, 2019
Representation of U.S. Warm Temperature Extremes in Global Climate Model Ensembles
Representation of warm temperature events varies considerably among global climate models, which has [more...]

List all highlights (possible long download time)