Southern Ocean Iron Experiment

Project Description

Before he passed away in 1993, John Martin suggested that an increase in  the flow of iron-rich dust to the ocean causes phytoplankton (single  celled algae) to grow. The increased photosynthesis removes carbon dioxide  from surface waters as the algae create biomass. This carbon dioxide is  replaced by carbon dioxide gas that flows into the sea from the atmosphere.  Reduced carbon dioxide in the atmosphere cools the planet (CO2 is a  greenhouse gas that warms the earth). The results of this work, funded by  the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and the US Coast  Guard, will be a much better understanding of how biological processes may  regulate climate.  (see Related Info: Fe cycle)

A direct test of the 'Martin Hypothesis' that trace concentrations of Fe  are responsible for phytoplankton's ability to grow by direct experimental  addition of Fe to the surface waters. Consequently the distribution of  bioavailable Fe in the surface waters determines large geographical areas  primary production and the following flux of fixed organic matter to the  deep sea.  The aim of the  SOFeX project  is to investigate the effects of  iron fertilization on the productivity of the Southern Ocean. The results  of this work will contribute significantly to our understanding of  important biogeochemical processes which bear directly on the global carbon  cycle, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, and climate control.

Read More »

Lead Principal Investigators

Kenneth Coale, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML)
Ken Johnson, Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)


list with contact information and interviews maintained at MBARI » participant list
list with contact information downloaded from MBARI » participant list

Participating Institutions

included in project history at MBARI » list of Institutions

Project Proposal

original proposal abstracts

Project Web Site

at MBARI »

Project Data and Results

Final Database:  access to online relational database of final data
SOFeX data site: MBARI table of original project cruise data
plus individual collections of data from each ship: REVELLE, MELVILLE, POLAR STAR

Related Info

funding is provided by the U.S. National Science Foundation