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Posted Wed Jun 30 2010: from PhysOrg:
Nutrients, viruses and the biological carbon pump
Adding nutrients to the sea could decrease viral infection rates among phytoplankton and enhance the efficiency of the biological pump, a means by which carbon is transferred from the atmosphere to the deep ocean, according to a new mathematical modelling study. The findings, published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, have implications for ocean geo-engineering schemes proposed for tackling global warming. Tiny free-floating algae called phytoplankton dominate biological production in the world's oceans and sit at the base of the marine food web. Their population dynamics are controlled by sunlight, nutrient availability, grazing by tiny planktonic animals (zooplankton) and mortality caused by viral infection. "Viruses are the most abundant organism in the world's oceans, and it is thought that all phytoplankton species are susceptible to infection. Our aim was to model the interaction between viruses, phytoplankton, zooplankton grazing and nutrient levels".... The researchers took an 'eco-epidemic' modelling approach, taking into account the mutual interaction between the effects of ecology and disease epidemiology. This approach has been used previously to model the effects of infection by pathogens on the population dynamics of mammals and invertebrate animals.... Artificial enhancement of the biological carbon pump by fertilizing the oceans with nutrients has been proposed as a possible geo-engineering 'fix' for global warming caused by the increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide from anthropogenic sources. "The decrease in viral infection rates caused by artificially adding nutrients to the sea could in the future benefit humans by increasing the efficiency of the biological carbon pump, making these proposed ocean geo-engineering schemes more viable," said Dr Rhodes.
[Read more stories about: carbon sinks, ecosystem interrelationships, geoengineering, dead zones, fertilizer runoff, unintended consequences, algal bloom]

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'Doc Jim says:
As far as I know, extra nutrients never caused any problems anywhere else.
And generally improves efficiency!

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