Azolla has actually done this before. About 55 million years ago, the Earth was in danger of falling into a runaway greenhouse state. The Arctic was a very different place than today. It was a lot hotter, and there was no ice to be found. Also, instead of being a large mass of land (or ice) surrounded by the ocean the way it is today, the Arctic was a large lake surrounded by land, and only connected to the ocean by one main opening: the Turgay Sea. Eventually, this opening to the ocean became blocked off, and the lake that covered the Arctic became the perfect place for a plant like azolla to grow: a warm lake with excess nutrients and no exchange with outside waters.
Over the next 49 million years, the Earth entered a cycle where carbon dioxide levels fell even further. During this time, South America and India shifted northward, causing the Antarctic to become isolated and allowing ice to form in the Antarctic as it became colder and colder. A series of ice ages began about 2.6 million years ago when the CO2 concentration reached 600 ppm, only 200 ppm above what it is today. By the mid-eighteenth century, carbon dioxide levels had fallen to 280 ppm.
Considering the world is heating quickly because of the rapid increase in man-made greenhouse gases, azolla could be a powerful tool to reduce greenhouse gas concentrations to manageable levels, if enough people around the world decide to grow it.
If you decide to grow azolla, make sure to keep it confined to an enclosed area. Azolla is considered a weed in North America and an invasive species in the UK. If it escapes its enclosure, then it can get into lakes or ponds and take over the surface of the water, killing any life under the surface. So be careful to keep azolla contained.
With that in mind, if azolla is grown properly, then it can be a powerful way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and reverse the greenhouse effect. We at Green Bridge Growers will be piloting the growth of azolla in our greenhouses this spring. Please stay tuned to learn how this project progresses and how it benefits the environment.