Iron fertilisation and century-scale effects of open ocean dissolution of olivine in a simulated CO2 removal experiment

Carbon dioxide removal (CDR) approaches are efforts to reduce the atmospheric CO2 concentration. Here we use a marine carbon cycle model to investigate the effects of one CDR technique: the open ocean dissolution of the iron-containing mineral olivine. We analyse the maximum CDR potential of an annual dissolution of 3 Pg olivine during the 21st century and focus on the role of the micro-nutrient iron for the biological carbon pump. Distributing the products of olivine dissolution (bicarbonate, silicic acid, iron) uniformly in the global surface ocean has a maximum CDR potential of 0.57 gC/g-olivine mainly due to the alkalinisation of the ocean, with a significant contribution from the fertilisation of phytoplankton with silicic acid and iron. The part of the CDR caused by ocean fertilisation is not permanent, while the CO2 sequestered by alkalinisation would be stored in the ocean as long as alkalinity is not removed from the system. For high CO2 emission scenarios the CDR potential due to the alkalinity input becomes more efficient over time with increasing ocean acidification. The alkalinity-induced CDR potential scales linearly with the amount of olivine, while the iron-induced CDR saturates at 113 PgC per century (on average $\sim 1.1\;$ PgC yr−1) for an iron input rate of 2.3 Tg Fe yr−1 (1% of the iron contained in 3 Pg olivine). The additional iron-related CO2 uptake occurs in the Southern Ocean and in the iron-limited regions of the Pacific. Effects of this approach on surface ocean pH are small (less than 0.01).

Hauck J., Köhler P., Wolf-Gladrow D. & Völker C., 2016. Iron fertilisation and century-scale effects of open ocean dissolution of olivine in a simulated CO2 removal experiment. Environmental Research Letters 11(2):024007. Article.


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