To resolve the impact of iron fertilization on marine ecosystems,
to quantify its potential for removal of atmospheric carbon
dioxide, and to improve our collective understanding of the
What is the ISIS Consortium?
The ocean is changing as a result of human activities, including fisheries, pollution, and the release of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2). All of these processes are changing ocean ecosystems and altering the ocean’s capacity to act as a sink for carbon. Increased atmospheric CO2 is also directly causing ocean acidification with potentially serious impacts. Climate change is thus inseparable from ocean change, and our ability to understand these changes relies heavily on our understanding of ocean ecosystems and, more specifically, the role of iron in regulating ocean productivity and hence the global carbon cycle and climate.
The ISIS (In-Situ Iron Studies) Consortium is a group of institutions and scientists who are motivated to answer the unknowns regarding the role of iron in regulating the ocean’s capacity to remove atmospheric carbon dioxide. One approach to improve our understanding is to conduct open ocean iron fertilization experiments (both in situ and with carefully designed numerical experiments) which allow scientists to study the impact of iron on marine ecosystems and to quantify its potential for CO2 removal. This does not mean we are ready to move ahead with geoengineering an ocean system that is only partially understood. However, precisely because this is such an important and at times controversial issue, we need to bring the best science to bear on this topic.
Consortium members have signed a Memorandum of Understanding that recommends the support of open experiments, the independence of each participant, and that we will follow internationally accepted practices regulating ocean iron fertilization (OIF) research being developed under the London Convention/London Protocol. We support additional experimentation and modeling, whether looking at natural sources of iron from dust, volcanoes, rivers, seafloor, or when iron is added to the ocean during controlled experiments. We seek to maintain healthy ocean ecosystems and support the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, while at the same time recognizing the need for considering our options for the removal of CO2 from the atmosphere. We invite others to support us and join in our efforts as we move ahead to improve our understanding of the changing ocean.