Lack of iron limits the plankton blooming process in about one-third of the world ocean, which in turn ends up controlling the biogeochemical phases of carbon, nitrogen, silicon, sulfur and ultimately Earth's climate, according to a recent review by Philip W. Boyd and coauthors aiming to improve understanding of the role iron plays in the ocean (Science, 2 Feb 2007).
The authors synthesize findings of a dozen Mesoscale Iron Enrichment Experiments performed between 1993 and 2005. Although the short-term, local effects of adding iron to these surface waters are clear, the large-scale, long-term consequences are still unknown so the authors suggest refinements to future experiments to enable scientists to fine tune their understanding.
The review highlights the importance of Fe bioavailability and hypothesize that it will be determined by the mode of supply and in particular by the subsequent retention in the upper ocean.
With respect to Fe-induced C export, the authors underline the need for more biogeochemical studies into particulate Fe/C ratios which can then contribute to modeling simulations into how pulsed versus sustained Fe supply affects ecosystem dynamics and biogeochemistry. Future Fe-fertilization experiments should also be improved by adding smaller and more frequent Fe doses, over a greater patch length scale (>>10 km), and additional measurements taken that provide insight into the impact of Fe enrichment on climate (e.g., biogenic gases) or Fe cycling (e.g., fate of Fe).
Mesoscale Iron Enrichment Experiments 1993-2005: Synthesis and Future Directions P. W. Boyd, T. Jickells, C. S. Law, S. Blain, E. A. Boyle, K. O. Buesseler, K. H. Coale, J. J. Cullen, H. J. W. de Baar, M. Follows, M. Harvey, C. Lancelot, M. Levasseur, N. P. J. Owens, R. Pollard, R. B. Rivkin, J. Sarmiento, V. Schoemann, V. Smetacek, S. Takeda, A. Tsuda, S. Turner, A. J. Watson, Science Vol 315 p.612
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