While the world looks for solutions to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, researchers at Montreal's Concordia and McGill universities have found that a natural element, already in abundance, is doing the job. Yves Gelinas and his team analyzed sediment samples from the world's oceans and found that CO2 molecules bind to organic carbon on the surface of the water, which then sink to the seabed, where iron oxides safely trap them.
The researchers say the iron is responsible for storing fully one-fifth of the organic carbon on the ocean floor this way. But, they say, there's cause for concern because iron oxide molecules are becoming "endangered." In order to form, they require oxygen-- an element that's declining in lakes, rivers and oceans.
"Locations once teeming with life are slowly becoming what are known as 'dead zones' in which oxygen levels in the surface sediment are becoming increasingly depleted," the researchers said in a news release. The reason: man-made pollution discharged into bodies of water leads to an abundance of plankton that ultimately die and put more organic carbon on the sea floor, using up much-needed oxygen. The findings are published in the journal Nature.