Received by Phillip Boyd (University of Tasmania) on behalf of co-authors
The Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography presents the John H. Martin Award to one paper each year that has led to fundamental shifts in research focus and interpretation of a large body of previous observations. The 2019 John H. Martin Award is for “A mesoscale phytoplankton bloom in the polar Southern Ocean stimulated by iron fertilization”.
In their 2000 paper, Phillip Boyd and co-authors, test how phytoplankton respond to iron fertilization. In the 1980s, John Martin himself hypothesized that iron enrichment in high-nutrient, low-chlorophyll regions would stimulate phytoplankton growth, and furthermore could hold the key to mitigating global warming via carbon sequestration. While prior field studies had documented increases in phytoplankton biomass following iron enrichment in the tropics, the second part of Martin’s hypothesis – that the increased phytoplankton biomass would boost carbon sequestration - remained untested until Boyd et al. The 13-day long mesoscale study found that iron enrichment led to an increase in phytoplankton biomass and rate of photosynthesis in surface waters; however, this increased carbon fixation was not necessarily followed by enhanced carbon fluxes and sequestration as predicted by Martin’s “iron hypothesis".
ASLO President, Michael Pace notes, “I assign this paper in my ecosystems class, because I think it is a great example of a large-scale experiment. I also like to challenge the students with an oceanography paper which for many of them is unfamiliar territory. The paper opens their eyes to the complexity and power of the ocean sciences as well as serving as a beautiful example of testing a key question.”
The award will be presented at the ASLO Aquatic Sciences Meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico to lead author Philip W. Boyd on behalf of study co-authors Andrew J. Watson, Cliff S. Law, Edward R. Abraham, Thomas Trull, Rob Murdoch, Dorothee C. E. Bakker, Andrew R. Bowie, K. O. Buesseler, Hoe Chang, Matthew Charette, Peter Croot, Ken Downing, Russell Frew, Mark Gall, Mark Hadfield, Julie Hall, Mike Harvey, Greg Jameson, Julie LaRoche, Malcolm Liddicoat, Roger Ling , Maria T. Maldonado, R. Michael McKay, Scott Nodder , Stu Pickmere, Rick Pridmore, Steve Rintoul, Karl Safi, Philip Sutton, Robert Strzepek, Kim Tanneberger, Suzanne Turner, Anya Waite, and John Zeldis.
Nature. 2000 Oct 12;407(6805):695-702.