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Oceans have a vital role in the global carbon cycle and climate regulation. Central to this function are phytoplankton — single-celled organisms that convert carbon dioxide to organic carbon in the surface oceans.

There is growing interest in fertilizing oceans with iron to produce massive phytoplankton blooms in parts of the ocean where they do not now occur. The goal is to transfer carbon from the atmosphere to the deep sea and thus reduce global warming.

But Sallie W. Chisholm et al warn that iron fertilisation would be extremely difficult to validate and would significantly alter oceanic food webs and biogeochemical cycles.

Reference: Science 294, 309 (2001)

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