Vietnam looks to fertilize sea plants with iron

TN News

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Vietnam's Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is studying the feasibility of introducing iron to local sea waters to stimulate marine plant growth, local news website VnExpress reported Friday.


If the study yields positive results, the ministry will propose applying the method, known as iron fertilization, along the coastline at soon as possible, the news source quoted Nguyen Chu Hoi, Deputy Chief of the Vietnam Sea and Islands General Department as saying.


It's advisable that the pilot program should target seaweed, a crucial export item, according to Hoi.


However, he noted, the fertilization method can have negative side-effects, like allowing phytoplankton to grow excessively or cause toxic algae blooms.


In fact, the method has provoked controversy in the international scientific community since it was first proposed in 1991.


Some said that every year phytoplankton help cut down on more than 50 billion tons of carbon dioxide--a prime contributor to global warming.


While the free-floating plants (and marine biological productivity, in general) are likely in decline due to climate change, adding iron to iron-deficient ocean waters can boost their growth, they said.


Since 1993, thirteen international research teams have completed ocean trials demonstrating that phytoplankton blooms can be stimulated by iron addition.


Others, meanwhile, argued that the addition of iron can stimulate algae addled with neurotoxins. Mollusks and other food species can be contaminated if they consume contaminated algae.

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