About 50 million years ago, the north pole was a hot and steamy mess, literally. This was a time when global climate change had caused mass extinction, like today. As the Earth warmed, plants and animals migrated northward away from the desert like equator. One of these travelers was the Azolla Fern. It’s consumption of CO2, symbiotic relationship to a nitrogen giving bacteria, and fast growth made this plant the hero that cooled the planet. Could it do the same now?
After coring the arctic ice sheets in 2006, researchers were surprised to find the free floating Azola within ice from the Eocene era. It had been hypothesized prior to this finding that the Earth cooling event during that period was thanks to biomass, however there was no evidence before according to an article published in Nature Magazine. The tiny fern grows in massive numbers that can cover countless square meters on water. This huge surface area is responsible for the efficiency of absorbing greenhouse gases leading to cooler climates. Azola likely stayed in the area until the climate was too cold, slowly growing in more southern regions until today where it thrives in Europe, Asia, and the Americas.
Today the plant is used as a fertilizer, for pest control, and animal feed. Researchers believe that it has potential to cool the climate once again. Some suggest that we could even give this property to other plants according to an article by Scientific American Magazine.
What do you think, could we use Azolla to right our wrongs?
Our Lonely Universe