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Iron Deficient Southern Ocean to be Explored by an Investigator Voyage

Update Date: Jan 11, 2016 12:34 PM EST
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It has been recently observed that the one-quarter of the world's oceans are marred by iron deficiency. Southern Ocean is one of the worst hit, often being described as "anemic". Following the observation, 40 scientists will set out on a voyage from Fremantle to Sub-Antarctic Heard and McDonald Islands on Friday and believe will be able to treat the iron deficiency of the ocean by using the equivalent of an iron-tablet, underwater volcanoes. "We suspect that hydrothermally mobilized iron is critical to the growth of phytoplankton blooms, the foundation of life in the Southern Ocean ecosystem," said Professor Mike Coffin, from the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, who is chief scientist of the voyage. "Moreover, phytoplankton contribute at least half of the oxygen in Earth's atmosphere," said Brisbane Times
The CSIRO's Marine National Facility research vessel Investigator is all set to make a journey to remote islands located 4000 kilometers south-west of Perth and 2000 kilometers North of Australia's base at Davis Station in Antarctica. These regions have been selected because unlike other parts parts of Southern Ocean, these parts are very rich in marine life which the scientists feel may be linked to greater amounts of iron. "We've got a fairly strong hypothesis that the iron is supplied through these underwater volcanoes," said Associate Professor Andrew Bowie, from the Institute of Marine and Antarctic Studies and the University of Tasmania. If the hypothesis made by the team is indeed accurate, then Professor Bowie said, it will be the world's first proven link "between solid Earth processes associated with hotspot volcanism and biological processes in the ocean". Professor Richard Arculus, formerly at the Australian National University, said "This is one of those things where you are part of a group, planning voyages years ahead. There was no chance, having just retired, that I was going to miss the trip," as reported by Sydney Morning Herald

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