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I've been reading a bit about the idea of fertilization the
oceans to increase plankton production, with the hopes
that this might provide a carbon "sink" to pull more CO2
out of the atmosphere. There's currently a lot of doubt
that this would work, at least permanently; the eventual
of most carbon in any new biomass will perhaps be to
return to the ocean, which readily exchanges CO2 with the
atmosphere, rather than sinking into deeper waters where
it might stay a longer time.
However, given the enormous mass of the oceans, and the
fact that so much of it is effectively devoid of surface life
because it lacks a few essential ingredients for plankton
growth, it seems there's potential for enormously
increasing fish production through fertilization. It's pretty
much like land fertilization: add some key missing
ingredients, growth takes off. We can't eat plankton; but
we can eat the fish who will eventually follow it in its
wake. So forget about CO2 sequestration, we may need
another approach to address that problem; but we might
be able to address our food needs better by making better
use of much of the 71% of our planet covered in water,
most of which is relatively lifeless.
Of course, we have to be concerned about disrupting
ecosystems. But most of the ocean surface has no
ecosystem: very little grows there. We might just be
increasing the size of the ecosystem, like if we could water
land deserts. Perhaps the main obstacle is political:
nobody owns the open oceans, so we'd need some world
treaty whereby anyone who fished in the fertilized waters
would have to contribute to the fertilization efforts; the
costs of that might be relatively small compared to the
benefits, but some mechanism is needed to prevent free-
riders from fishing in oceans that others have fertilized.
In a few years, we might restore some of the oceans's
historical fisheries, while actually getting more fish out of
previously unused areas; imagine large swaths of ocean
becoming as productive as the Georges Bank used to be
before overfishing. We might even be able to reduce our
use of land for livestock somewhat, by farming the oceans
instead. Fishburger, anyone?
[bungston, Mar 21 2012]
||I'm having a hard time finding the halfbake here; it seems
like you're just suggesting that we step up the effort on
things that are already being done.
||Can be abbreviated to "Dump iron in ocean".
||Oceanic acidification would probably not be a good thing.