Aerosols from wildfires can fertilize the oceans

Sept. 17, 2021

Wildfires can have catastrophic environmental and socioeconomic impacts on land, such as the loss of habitats and biodiversity, air pollution and public health. However, few studies report on the fires’ impact on ocean ecosystems. In a new study, Harry H. Hess postdoctoral fellow Weiyi Tang in the Ward lab and colleagues found that iron in aerosols from 2019-2020 Australian wildfires fueled widespread phytoplankton growth in the Southern Ocean, potentially leading to a substantial increase in carbon uptake by the ocean. This process needs to be further explored and better represented in earth system models, in light of the prevalence of wildfires in many regions and the projected increases in wildfires with climate change.

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