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Predicting and verifying the intended and unintended consequences of large-scale ocean iron fertilization


Cullen, JJ and Boyd, PW, Predicting and verifying the intended and unintended consequences of large-scale ocean iron fertilization, Marine Ecology Progress Series, 364 pp. 295-301. ISSN 0171-8630 (2008) [Refereed Article]


Copyright Statement

Copyright 2008 Inter-Research

DOI: doi:10.3354/meps07551


Ocean iron fertilization (OIF) is being considered as a strategy for mitigating rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations. One model for implementation is the sale of carbon offsets. Modeling studies predict that OIF has the potential to produce a material difference in the rise of atmospheric CO2 over the next several decades, but this could only be attained by alteration of the ecosystems and biogeochemical cycles of much of the world’s oceans. The efficacy of OIF on this scale has not been proven. However, the consequences of successful implementation must be considered now, for 2 important reasons: (1) to determine if the environmental effects would be predictable and verifiable, and if so, acceptable; and (2) to establish whether the basis for valuing carbon offsets—an accurate audit of net reductions in cumulative greenhouse gas potential over 100 yr—can be met. Potential side-effects of widespread OIF that must be considered include a reduced supply of macronutrients to surface waters downstream of fertilized regions, increased emissions of the potent greenhouse gases nitrous oxide and methane, and changes in the extent or frequency of coastal hypoxia. Given the uncertainties inherent in ocean models, predictions of environmental effects must be backed up by measurements. Thus, to go forward with confidence that the effects of rising CO2 could indeed be mitigated through OIF over the next century, and to establish the foundations for auditing carbon offsets, it must be explicitly demonstrated that methods exist to predict and detect downstream effects of OIF against the background of both climate variability and global warming. We propose that until the side-effects of widespread OIF can be shown to be verifiable—and there is good reason to believe that they cannot—OIF should not be considered a viable technology for climate mitigation.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Keywords:ocean fertilization, climate change, climate change mitigation, carbon offsets, ecological effects, hypoxia, nitrous oxide
Research Division:Environmental Sciences
Research Group:Climate change impacts and adaptation
Research Field:Ecological impacts of climate change and ecological adaptation
Objective Division:Environmental Policy, Climate Change and Natural Hazards
Objective Group:Adaptation to climate change
Objective Field:Ecosystem adaptation to climate change
UTAS Author:Boyd, PW (Professor Philip Boyd)
ID Code:95546
Year Published:2008
Web of Science® Times Cited:42
Deposited By:IMAS Research and Education Centre
Deposited On:2014-10-03
Last Modified:2014-11-28
Downloads:542 View Download Statistics

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