|Plankton blooms swirl north of Norway (ESA)|
That's the lead from a press-release accompanying an interesting new paper in Nature. The paper's authors have found that melting ice sheets in Greenland and Antartica aren't just cranking up sea-levels, inch-by-worrying-inch. They're also pumping out iron - an important nutrient - into the seas surrounding them. Given that a little bit of extra iron has been shown to boost the growth of blooms of phytoplankton - the tiny micro-organisms that are the basis of nearly all marine life - and that phytoplankton absorbs CO2 - the headache gas of global warming - it's easy enough to spot the kernel of a good-news story.
|Nanoparticulate ferrihyrite in all its glory|
The fact that melting glaciers are a major source of this 'bioavailable' iron is something of a novel concept. It may go some way towards explaining the large blooms of phytoplankton that colour the Arctic ocean in spring and summer. So this paper is major step forward in understanding the complex interweave between climate, chemistry and life in the coldest spots on the planet. But does this new research also point the way towards phytoplankton blooms as a force for good in the battle against climate change?