Urgent Evoke

A crash course in changing the world.

Phosphorus, Jellyfish, and Fertilizer and Peak Crises Revisited

This blog post shows links to Jasper's "Fertilizer" evokation, posted 11 March, 2010,


and GLIM's Fertilizer and Peak Crises posted 15 March, 2010

To see this blog with pictures, please open: EVOKE No Brain Jellyfish and Phosphates.doc

No Brain...No Heart...Nomura’s Jellyfish

just another Cnidarian taking over the world!!

Overfishing, discarded bycatch (approximately 30 million metric tons of dead fish annually—equal to about 25% of all fish caught world-wide), marine pollution from climbing coastal runoff of nitrogen and phosphorus—the world’s oceans are becoming hypoxic Dead Zones. (http://www.organicprinciple.com/index.htm)

The Gulf of Mexico is the source of an estimated 40% of US commercial fishing totals annually. The Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone is one of the largest world-wide; over half of its coastal shellfish producing areas have been declared off limits indefinitely due to frightening levels of marine pollution.

The jellyfish and the similarly brainless, glowing Leidy’s Comb Jellies (actually a large plankton) are the only sea creatures that can survive in a Dead Zone.

Nurtured by phosphate-triggered plankton and algae blooms, the jellyfish thrive despite the eutrophication, and pulse through the water and suck in food. More and more food. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eutrophication)

Chiba, Tokyo Bay, Japan. Nomura’s Jellyfish overturn 10-t0n Fishing Trawler.

Riding the currents between the East China Sea and Japan, jellyfish (which can grow as large as 660 pounds) swarmed into the fishing nets of Japanese trawler Diasan Shinsho-maru, and capsized the vessel, in 2009. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomura’s_jellyfish )

Billions of jellyfish wipe out Irish Salmon Farm

Northern Salmon Co., Ltd., reported that a 10-square-mile swarm of billions of jellyfish massed around 2 offshore salmon pens in 2007. By the time the company’s three boats plowed their way through the billions of gelatinous marauders, over 100,000 salmon were either dead or dying from stings and stress. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21922361/)

Millions of “Mauve Stingers,” or Pelagia Noctiluca, plague the Mediterranean Seas.

Pelagia noctiluca medusa near Sicily in the western Mediterranean Sea.

And scientists blame rising sea temperatures, phosphate pollution levels and algae/plankton blooms for the teeming hoards of poisonous gelatinous juggernauts.


Miles beneath the sea’s surface, bioluminescent death lurks

About 90% of all ocean creatures are bioluminescent. But among the most deadly are the bathetic, tentacled predators, gliding silently through dark waters, dazzling their prey with a luciferic light show, and luring the unwary to their deaths. (http://www.environmentalgraffiti.com/featured/bioluminescent-jellyfish-miles-beneath-sea/18295)

No-brain gelatinous globs produce psychedelic light shows


Following warm waters flowing up the coast of North America, Leidy’s comb jellies, a bioluminescent plankton, emit bursts of green-blue light when agitated.

Not phosphorescent, but luminescent, these harmless clear jellies create a chemical light show through the interaction of luciferin and the enzyme luciferase. In fact, this bioluminescence is behind the biological “highlighter” protein GFP, which enable scientists to pinpoint genetic health keys, and imprint a permanent glow into the DNA of test populations of mice.

Courtesy University of Pennsylvania (http://kidsblogs.nationalgeographic.com/kidsnews/2009/05/glowing-an...)

Where is all the Phosphorus going?

Scientists explain that dissolved phosphorus (P) is assimilated by phytoplankton. The phytoplankton are ingested by zooplankton. Zooplankton excrete inorganic P, which is again assimilated by phytoplankton, or the P-rich zooplankton are themselves ingested by the jellyfish which thrive in the eutrophic waters rendered nearly airless by the phosphorus-induced phytoplankton population explosion -- the Dead Zones. And, infesting brackish groves and estuaries, the phosphorus-loving chlorophyte Codium Edule (http://www.botany.hawaii.edu/Bot482/Kaneohe%20Bay%20algae%20N-P%20Larned%20Mar%20Biol.pdf). Not to be left behind, high aqueous phosphate levels are encouraging huge blooms of bathetic macroalgae (periphytons) as well as free-floating phytoplankton (pond sc**) in polluted tributaries, lakes, and other formerly-fresh waterways.




Inconvenient Non-Resilience

Phosphorus (P), said to be the eleventh-most abundant mineral in the earth’s crust, is an essential nutrient for all life forms, critical to bodily functions, to DNA, to photosynthesis. In vertebrates, about 80% of P is located in the bones and teeth, with more phosphorus than calcium present in bones. Scientists say phosphates and phospholipids are present in all organisms, vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant.

Currently, phosphate rock is the source of P used to make fertilizers, commonly used to augment yields on the world’s relatively fixed arable land resources. Scientists estimate demand for phosphorus will exceed supply around the world 2030. As reserves of phosphate begin to run out, societal stresses caused by rising food prices, growing food insecurity and widening inequalities between affluent and impoverished nations will become critical.




Who can accept the challenge?

Posted by EVOKE biologist-Agent glim on March 15, 2010, Fertilizer and Peak Crises (http://www.urgentevoke.com/profiles/blogs/fertilizer-and-peak-crises?xg_source=activity&id=4871302%3ABlogPost%3A36501&page=2#comments) asks EVOKE: “are there any chemists in the house?”

If we need to replenish the earth’s levels of usable phosphorus, perhaps we can re-purpose the fishing trawlers and drag-net fishing vessels which have been overfishing the world’s waters, depleting sea turtle populations, and destroying coral reefs.

Perhaps fishing trawlers can be repurposed to harvest the swarms of large-body jellyfish ( which have been prompted by the phosphorus/plankton-zooplankton pollution chain).

Perhaps off-shore and freshwater fish pens, which have been depleted due to over-crowding and under-nutrition of the fish being bred, can be re-invented to maximize usage of the swarms of small-body cnidarians and comb jellies wherever fertilizer / phosphate run-off is present.

Perhaps the plaguing growths of algae, macroalgae, phytoplankton and zooplankton, inland and offshore, can be monitored and harvested when peak levels of the phosphates contaminating the waterways have been consumed through the photosynthesis process.

And then, perhaps, the chemists can figure out how to process and utilize the phosphorus suspended within these organisms, to replenish the dwindling supplies of precipitated P necessary to complete the N P K trilogy.

Views: 1066

Comment by Michele Baron on March 17, 2010 at 3:08pm
@Pan, I am not a chemist or bioengineer, and you raise an interesting consideration. There are bacteria present on ocean and fresh-waterbed floors which do process precipitated P in excreted, deceased, or even maturing plankton, macroalgae, and phytoplankton species. A bio-engineered bacteria, similar to those engendered to combat the devastations of oil spills, might be useful. But I have no way of measuring unanticipated outcomes, and so did not engage that line for my presentation. You are more courageous (+1 on the point charts to you...) However: my reasoning was:
(1) Although harvesting the massively overpopulated ranks of deep sea jellies may be cost-prohibitive, costs would be mitigated by re-purposing of fishing vessels and crews that might have been unemployed due to edible-species depletion.
Further, harvesting those huge, predatory cnidarians would help re-establish interdependent biodiversity of marine ecosystems, as large jellies are devastating predators of nearly ALL other fish (including shellfish) spawn.
(2) Leidy's Comb Jellies already seem to be a nearly perfect bioroganism for "fixing" marine-suspensions of P--they have a very short spawn-reproductive maturation-spawn span, are coastal huggers, and 90% water so P could be easily captured/precipitated/processed.
And they are already vastly present along coastlines, so effects of their population swells have calculable limits, whereas the creation of a new bio-organism might have unanticipated (and possibly deleterious or worse) consequences. (Of course, in Polly's world, everything might come out just fine...)
(3) The existing species of algae, macroalgae, phyto and zooplankton, and particularly Codium Edule are demonstrated phosphorus gourmands, and efficiently utilize and process large amounts of organic and inorganic phosphorus in its various forms.
Again, a bioengineered species could be engaged to speed up metabolisation/processing of P, but, while I do not want to turn from that door, I am not sure how to accomplish the developmental research (and attendant assumed responsibilities for a "full-blind" introduction of a new bio-organism into our damaged system), and the math/bioscience involved are beyond my abilities in this situation.
Do you know any sourcing leads for the bioengineering question? I am not shutting any doors-- I would be happy to keep working on this. Thanks for your input!!
Comment by Michele Baron on March 17, 2010 at 5:07pm
Resiliance restored on various levels? White hat hacker-approach could work--I will think about how to accomplish it--unless you have a bio-engineer or bio-chemist on your call-board? Thanks again
Comment by glim on March 23, 2010 at 9:23pm
yay! so glad you got this post out and glad i found it.
it love the idea of taking something we see as a problem and using it to fix another problem we have. taking two loose ends and tying them together.
@Panamericana, i'm sure you know how much i love transgenic organisms, but i see a couple of issues here. It would take a serious amount of study to find out what the disruptive actions might be. and while i am all for a gunho approach in such things, it wouldn't be fixing our phosphorus issue. i actually like the idea of harvesting the jellies, i mean, they are all ready there, they are out of balance, and they are full of what we need. remember, the harvesting jellies is not a response to a jelly issue per se but a response to phosphorus depletions
also, the organism introduction would be time intensive (you need to wait for them to grow etc.), however, with the jelly farming, you are creating a job market for dying industry (fishing) and getting phosphorus and reducing jellyfish. it's a win win win situation
Comment by Michele Baron on March 24, 2010 at 1:40am
@ Glim--glad you found the post too
@Panamericana--glim probably knows more about transgenic organisms than I, and I still have no lab for pre-release tests--would love to be able to implement, perhaps first harvesting jellies, then perhaps also lab, then field-testing any bioengineering add-ons. I'm an artist--I like win win win situations...


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