Efficiency of small scale carbon mitigation by patch iron fertilization

Biogeosciences Discussions 01/2009; DOI: 10.5194/bg-7-3593-2010
Source: DOAJ

ABSTRACT While nutrient depletion scenarios have long shown that the high-latitude High Nutrient Low Chlorophyll (HNLC) regions are the most effective for sequestering atmospheric carbon dioxide, recent simulations with prognostic biogeochemical models have suggested that only a fraction of the potential drawdown can be realized. We use a global ocean biogeochemical general circulation model developed at GFDL and Princeton to examine this and related issues. We fertilize two patches in the North and Equatorial Pacific, and two additional patches in the Southern Ocean HNLC region north of the biogeochemical divide and in the Ross Sea south of the biogeochemical divide. We obtain by far the greatest response to iron fertilization at the Ross Sea site. Here the CO2 remains sequestered on century time-scales and the efficiency of fertilization remains almost constant no matter how frequently iron is applied as long as it is confined to the growing season. The second most efficient site is in the Southern Ocean. Here the biological response to iron fertilization is comparable to the Ross Sea, but the enhanced biological uptake of CO2 is more spread out in the vertical and thus less effective at leading to removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. The North Pacific site has lower initial nutrients and thus a lower efficiency. Fertilization of the Equatorial Pacific leads to an expansion of the suboxic zone and a striking increase in denitrification that causes a sharp reduction in overall surface biological export production and CO2 uptake. The impacts on the oxygen distribution and surface biological export are less prominent at other sites, but nevertheless still a source of concern. The century time scale retention of iron in these models greatly increases the long-term biological response to iron addition as compared with models in which the added iron is rapidly scavenged from the ocean.

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