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carbon dioxide and iron - Front Page > Pulse of the Planet...

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Front Page > Pulse of the Planet Can Iron-Enriched Oceans Thwart Global Warming? John Roach for National Geographic News June 9, 2004 Virtually all life in the world's oceans is directly or indirectly dependent on one- celled plants called phytoplankton. These plants, which live at the ocean surface, feed on ocean nutrients to survive. But about 20 to 30 percent of these crucial nutrients sink out of reach of the phytoplankton each year, according to Jorge Sarmiento, a professor of atmospheric and ocean sciences at Princeton University in New Jersey. Through his research, Sarmiento is trying to tease out the details of how the ocean supplies the nutrients that phytoplankton need to survive and, in turn, support everything else that makes a living in or off the ocean. Sinking Nutrients Sarmiento equates the sinking nutrients in the ocean to leaves falling off trees. Bacteria break down the organic matter of fallen leaves, releasing their nutrients for reuse by plants in the future. "The big difference in the ocean is that much of the organic matter sinks out of reach of the surface ocean, where there is enough light for photosynthesis," Sarmiento said. "Thus when
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