15 September (WNN) — The bushfires that engulfed Australia in 2019 and 2020 fueled massive algae blooms in the Southern Ocean a few thousand miles away, according to a new study.
Between November 2019 and January 2020, wildfires burned millions of acres of bush and forest across Australia. Thick, dark plumes of smoke erupted from the record-setting fire, triggering smoke alarms and asthma attacks in New South Wales.
But while wildfire smoke can negatively affect human health—by increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease, in addition to respiratory problems—it can also carry life-giving nutrients.
According to new research, published Wednesday in the journal Nature, iron transported thousands of miles away from massive, wind-blown smoke plumes to algal blooms in the Southern Ocean.
The researchers found that shortly after the smoke plumes fertilized the algal cells with the iron aerosol, the growing algal bloom sucked up significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere.
Co-lead author Wei Tang, a postdoctoral fellow in geosciences at Princeton University, said in a press release, “These fires represent an unexpected and less previously documented impact of climate change on the marine environment, with potential repercussions on our global climate.” ” .
Although the latest research was limited to the Southern Ocean, the researchers suggest that other areas where upstream oxygen and nutrients come to the surface may also be responsible for iron fertilization from wildfires.