This kind of 'fertilisation' is intended to accelerate the natural process of carbon dioxide (CO2) sequestration by photosynthesis, and help multiply microscopic organisms called phytoplankton that account for about half of all absorption of carbon dioxide by plants. Through photosynthesis, plankton capture carbon and sunlight for growth, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.
Phytoplankton productivity in the oceans is declining as a result of warmer temperatures. The amount of iron that is naturally deposited from atmospheric dust clouds into the oceans, providing nutrients for phytoplankton, has also decreased dramatically in recent decades.
The Australia-based Ocean Nourishment Corporation (ONC) and the
Margaret Leinen, chief scientist at Climos, says research needs to be undertaken. "Climate change constitutes an enormous challenge for us, we cannot afford to do nothing." Leinen said that if additional CO2 sequestration could be safely simulated (by scientific research on ocean fertilisation), then the process "could assist in decreasing the carbon concentration in the atmosphere until our global energy economy can make the transition to fewer greenhouse gases emissions."
But such plans are "plainly illegal," Philomene Verlaan, professor of ocean policy at the
Environmentalists and scientists fear that ocean fertilisation could also have negative side effects that would lead to further loss of marine biodiversity.