Azara Blog: Getting a sea creature to mop up carbon dioxide

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Date published: 2006/12/13

The BBC says:

A simple sea creature could help to address the problem of global warming, a scientist claims.

Tiny tube-like salps mop up greenhouse gases by feasting on carbon-dioxide soaked algae from the oceans.

The US researcher told the American Geophysical Union meeting of his plans adjust nutrient levels in the ocean to boost the sea animals populations.

But other scientists warned of the unknown consequences of meddling with the ocean's complex ecosystem.

The salp is a transparent hollow tube, no bigger than an unshelled peanut, that swims around vacuuming up microscopic plants.

Because it is efficient in sucking up marine algae that have absorbed dissolved carbon dioxide (CO2), the salp is seen by one scientist as the key to sequestering excess atmospheric gas to the ocean bottom.

"It's just a feeding tube," said Phil Kithil, CEO of Atmocean Inc, a private research firm in Santa Fe, New Mexico. "It eats at one end and excretes at the other."

The solid carbon pellet that emerges from the salp sinks and dissolves deep enough in the ocean to be effectively taken out of the carbon cycle.

Mr Kithil wants to increase the algae-eating salp population in the world's oceans by boosting its food supply.
But some climate scientists warn the possible side-effects of tinkering with the Earth's climate do not justify the risk.

"The ocean is such an alien system for us to be tinkering with based on the current level of science," said Jim Bishop, a bio-geochemist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"We don't understand the ecosystem dynamics well enough to predict what will happen.

This is worth a more detailed look, but mankind does not have a very good track record at playing god like this.

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