"What's really incomprehensible," Bujak said, "is that the previous process of our planet cooling and CO2 dropping took 50 million years to unfold. Now, we may be reversing this process in a matter of centuries."
Others have taken to experimenting with the edible aspect of Azolla, including Andrew Bujak, a chef and son of Jonathan Bujak. Andrew Bujak has been growing it at his home in Canada. Initially interested in the slow food concept, an Italian movement spawned in opposition to the growing influence of fast-food chains like McDonald's Corp., Bujak saw a personal use for Azolla.
Two weeks ago, the Beijing Genomics Institute, or BGI, owner of the most sophisticated sequencing platforms in the world, agreed to take on Pryer's project to fund the mapping of the Azolla genome. In as little as a year, the mysteries of the fern's past and full applications for the future could become open-access data.
"This knowledge will give us control over Azolla in a way we didn't have before," said Francisco Carrapico at the University of Lisbon. "We can increase carbon sequestering and nitrogen fixation, or give Azolla's properties to other plants. We've even found chemicals in Azolla that stop cell division. The question is almost what will we find that Azolla cannot do."
*Correction (7/16/14): ClimateWire edited this sentence after posting to correct erroneous carbon dioxide levels given in the original version.