WASHINGTON, D.C. -- World Wildlife Fund today announced its opposition to a plan by Planktos, Inc. to dump iron dust in the open ocean west of the Galapagos Islands. The experiment seeks to induce phytoplankton blooms in the hopes that the microscopic marine plants will absorb carbon dioxide. The company is speculating on lucrative ways to combat climate change.
"There are much safer and proven ways of preventing or lowering carbon dioxide levels than dumping iron into the ocean," said Dr. Lara Hansen, chief scientist, WWF International Climate Change Program. "This kind of experimentation with disregard for marine life and the lives of people who rely on the sea is unacceptable."
According to a summary by the United States Government submitted to the International Maritime Organization, Planktos, Inc. -- a for-profit company -- will dump up to 100 tons of iron dust this month in a 36 square mile area located approximately 350 miles west of the Galapagos Islands. Planktos, Inc. plans to dump the iron in international waters using vessels neither flagged under the United States nor leaving from the United States so U.S. regulations such as the U.S. Ocean Dumping Act do not apply and details do not need to be disclosed to U.S. entities.
"World Wildlife Fund's concern extends beyond the impact on individual species and extends to the changes that this dumping may cause in the interaction of species, affecting the entire ecosystem," said Dr. Sallie Chisholm, microbiologist, MIT and board member, World Wildlife Fund. "There's a real risk that this experiment may cause a domino effect through the food chain."
Potential negative impacts of the Planktos experiment include: -- Shifts in the composition of species that make up plankton, the base of the marine food chain, would cause changes in all the species that depend on it. -- The impact of gases released by both the large amount of phytoplankton blooms induced by Planktos, Inc. and resulting bacteria after the phytoplankton die. -- Bacterial decay following the induced phytoplankton bloom will consume oxygen, lowering oxygen levels in the water and changing its chemistry. This change in chemistry could favor the growth of microbes that produce powerful greenhouse gases such as nitrous oxide. -- The introduction of large amounts of iron to the ecosystem -- unless it is in a very pure form, which is likely cost-prohibitive at the scales proposed -- would probably be accompanied by other trace metals that would be toxic to some forms of marine life.
In the waters around the Galapagos, some 400 species of fish swim with turtles, penguins and marine iguanas above a vast array of urchins, sea cucumbers, crabs, anemones, sponges and corals. Many of these animals are found nowhere else on earth.
Reports indicate that Planktos, Inc. is planning other large-scale iron dumping in other locations in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of UnderwaterTimes.com, its staff or its advertisers.