Scientists onboard the icebreaker Polarstern, operated by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research (AWI), had planned to dump 20 tonnes of iron sulphate over 300 square kilometres of the Scotia Sea to induce an algal bloom. Using extra nutrients to stimulate algal growth is thought to be a potential path to carbon sequestration.
AWI’s experiment would be the sixth iron-fertilisation experiment in the Southern Ocean since 1993. The researchers say the procedure is harmless to the environment and consistent with the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.
“We hadn’t expected such an avalanche of protest,” Ulrich Bathmann, an AWI biological oceanographer, told Nature. It is unfortunate, he said, that the experiment has been “lumped together in an undifferentiated way with industrial waste-dumping activities, with which it has absolutely nothing in common.”
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