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Subduction zone volcanic ash [SZVA] can fertilize the surface ocean and stimulate phytoplankton growth. We find evidence of this process from biogeochemical experiments and satellite data.

Svend Duggen, Peter Croot, Ulrike Schacht, and Linn Hoffmann, GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 34, L01612, doi:10.1029/2006GL027522, 2007

"Subduction zone volcanic ash has a substantial potential to alter the nutrient budget of the surface ocean and to stimulate the growth of diatoms and other phytoplankton in iron-limited and other low-productivity oceanic areas. Hence, oceanic fertilization with SZVA may play a vital role for the ocean-atmosphere gas interchange and ultimately the development of the global climate."  

Mesoscale Iron Enrichment Experiments 1993-2005: Synthesis and Future Directions

Science 2 February 2007:  Vol. 315. no. 5812, pp. 612 - 617DOI:


P. W. Boyd,1* T. Jickells,2 C. S. Law,3 S. Blain,4 E. A. Boyle,5 K. O. Buesseler,6 K. H. Coale,7 J. J. Cullen,8 H. J. W. de Baar,9 M. Follows,5 M. Harvey,3 C. Lancelot,10 M. Levasseur,11 N. P. J. Owens,12 R. Pollard,13 R. B. Rivkin,14 J. Sarmiento,15 V. Schoemann,10 V. Smetacek,16 S. Takeda,17 A. Tsuda,18 S. Turner,2 A. J. Watson2

"Since the mid-1980s, our understanding of nutrient limitation of oceanic primary production has radically changed. Mesoscale iron addition experiments (FeAXs) have unequivocally shown that iron supply limits production in one-third of the world ocean, where surface macronutrient concentrations are perennially high. The findings of these 12 FeAXs also reveal that iron supply exerts controls on the dynamics of plankton blooms, which in turn affect the biogeochemical cycles of carbon, nitrogen, silicon, and sulfur and ultimately influence the Earth climate system. However, extrapolation of the key results of FeAXs to regional and seasonal scales in some cases is limited because of differing modes of iron supply in FeAXs and in the modern and paleo-oceans. New research directions include quantification of the coupling of oceanic iron and carbon biogeochemistry."