The Alfred Wegner Institute and Indian National Institute of Oceanography have launched the LOHAFEX experiment, which involves adding iron to ocean areas that lack iron and spurring the growth of carbon-eating plankton. Additional iron may incite rapid plankton growth. As plankton grow, they incorporate carbon, and when they die, they take the carbon down to the ocean floor. The LOHAFEX project will dump 20-tons of tiny iron filings over a 115-square mile of ocean near Antartica.
According to Wired, it’s unclear how much carbon the plankton sequester, or how long. Ken Buesseler of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute said that somewhere between 2 and 50 percent of the carbon the plankton eat could actually make it to the depths of the ocean.
Many environmentalist groups are opposed to the project, and argue that the project runs counter to the UN Convention on Biodiversity. Climos, an ocean iron fertilization firm, has argued that the project is acceptable under a clause in the Convention, which allows for scientific experiments in open water. Climos has received USD 4 million in financing for iron fertilization.
Iron fertilization is a form of geo-engineering, a process through which natural cycles and processes are manipulated to slow the effects of global warming.