The Plankton and the Planet

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Science  05 Feb 1999:
Vol. 283, Issue 5403, pp. 801-802
DOI: 10.1126/science.283.5403.801

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In two dramatic experiments in 1996, iron was added to a large area of the tropical Pacific Ocean, causing a large phytoplankton bloom. This result not only demonstrated that (in at least some parts of the ocean) the lack of iron limits productivity, but also raised the possibility that fertilization of the ocean could increase its output. But how do we know where in the ocean to fertilize? In his Perspective, Mullineaux discusses an indicator of iron limitation (reported on p. 840 of this issue), which shows that iron is limiting productivity in unexpectedly large areas of the ocean.