Side effects and accounting aspects of hypothetical large-scale Southern Ocean iron fertilization.

Oschlies, Andreas , Koeve, Wolfgang , Rickels, Wilfried and Rehdanz, Katrin (2010) Side effects and accounting aspects of hypothetical large-scale Southern Ocean iron fertilization. Open Access Biogeosciences (BG), 7 (12). pp. 4017-4035. DOI 10.5194/bg-7-4017-2010.

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Recent suggestions to slow down the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide have included ocean fertilization by addition of the micronutrient iron to Southern Ocean surface waters, where a number of natural and artificial iron fertilization experiments have shown that low ambient iron concentrations limit phytoplankton growth. Using a coupled carbon-climate model with the marine biology's response to iron addition calibrated against data from natural iron fertilization experiments, we examine biogeochemical side effects of a hypothetical large-scale Southern Ocean Iron Fertilization (OIF) that need to be considered when attempting to account for possible OIF-induced carbon offsets. In agreement with earlier studies our model simulates an OIF-induced increase in local air-sea CO2 fluxes by about 60 GtC over a 100-year period, which amounts to about 40% of the OIF-induced increase in organic carbon export. Offsetting CO2 return fluxes outside the region and after stopping the fertilization at 1, 7, 10, 50, and 100 years are quantified for a typical accounting period of 100 years. For continuous Southern Ocean iron fertilization, the return flux outside the fertilized area cancels about 8% of the fertilization-induced CO2 air-sea flux within the fertilized area on a 100-yr timescale. This "leakage" effect has a similar radiative impact as the simulated enhancement of marine N2O emissions. Other side effects not yet discussed in terms of accounting schemes include a decrease in Southern Ocean oxygen levels and a simultaneous shrinking of tropical suboxic areas, and accelerated ocean acidification in the entire water column in the Southern Ocean on the expense of reduced globally averaged surface water acidification. A prudent approach to account for the OIF-induced carbon sequestration would account for global air-sea CO2 fluxes rather than for local fluxes into the fertilized area only. However, according to our model, this would underestimate the potential for offsetting CO2 emissions by about 20% on a 100 year accounting timescale. We suggest that a fair accounting scheme applicable to both terrestrial and marine carbon sequestration has to be based on emission offsets rather than on changes in individual carbon pools.

Document Type: Article
Additional Information: WOS:000285574100008
Research affiliation: Kiel University
OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB2 Marine Biogeochemistry > FB2-BM Biogeochemical Modeling
OceanRep > The Future Ocean - Cluster of Excellence
Refereed: Yes
Open Access Journal?: Yes
Publisher: Copernicus Publications (EGU)
Projects: BIOACID, Future Ocean
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2010 09:53
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2019 21:47

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