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Icebergs help oceans take up carbon

May 11, 2011 at 8:49 PM   |   Comments

MONTERY, Calif., May 11 (UPI) -- Antarctic icebergs are "fertilizing" algae that take up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and transfer carbon into the deep sea, researchers say.

As global climate change releases thousands of free-drifting icebergs that are carried by currents into the Southern Ocean, they carry iron-rich sediment from the land out into the ocean.

Scientists from the Montery Bay Aquarium Research Institute studied these icebergs and found as they melt and drift across the ocean, some of the iron dissolves in the seawater, creating a trail of iron-rich melt water up to 12 miles long that helps fertilize the growth of microscopic algae, an institute release reported Wednesday.

Icebergs both large and small are playing an important role in controlling how much carbon from the atmosphere was taken up by algae and ultimately transported into the deep sea, the researchers said.

"The role of icebergs in removing carbon from the atmosphere may have implications for global climate models that need to be further studied," institute biologist Ken Smith said.

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