Who wants to hear some good news about icebergs? Because icebergs kind of have a bad reputation. and we just wanna help make it better!
Every time we hear about icebergs, it’s because of something negative. Melting glaciers. Rising sea levels. Wrecked ocean liners. Its never anything good. But actually, they aren’t all that bad. Anything that penguins love this much cant actually be so bad.
After some research, scientists have found that icebergs are actually just giant fertilizer bags for the ocean! As icebergs melt, they release minerals like iron into the ocean. These minerals can act like fertilizer, this encourages the growth of microscopic marine plants known as phytoplankton.
Actually, you can track where an iceberg has passed by, by watching where new phytoplankton growth happens. One group of researchers from the University of Sheffield looked at satellite images and found that the fertilization effect can last for more than a month after an iceberg has passed through an area.
As the phytoplankton grow, they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere for photosynthesis. This new plant growth captures carbon, helping to reduce climate change. When the phytoplankton die, some of them sink to the bottom of the ocean, effectively trapping all the carbon down there, a process known as carbon sequestration. This means the icebergs’ effect on the ocean’s carbon sequestration might become more and more important in slowing the effects of climate change.
To be clear, icebergs are not going to save us from climate change. If we dump a bunch of icebergs in the ocean, things aren’t suddenly going to be better.
“If giant iceberg calving increases this century as expected, this negative feedback on the carbon cycle may become more important than we previously thought,” said Professor Grant Bigg, who led the Sheffield study.
Carbon sequestration isn’t going to back track the 5 billion (or more) tons of carbon dioxide we’re putting into the atmosphere each year. But understanding icebergs and their role in carbon sequestration can help us find new ways to talk about potential solutions.
We still need to do a lot to fight climate change, its just awesome to see how amazing nature is and how it is helping us do that all on its own.
The Earth is a very complex system with a lot of different little processes that all add up to one beautiful planet. The more we know about how it works, the more we can do to keep it healthy, whole, and habitable.