Study: Whales could play crucial role in fighting climate change
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Did you know whales can influence the amount of carbon in our air and waters?
Not only are they amazing to watch, researchers found that whales may be critical in helping fight climate change.
A new report from the University of Hawaii at Manoa explored how whales can influence the amount of carbon in the earth and potentially contribute to the overall reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
“Understanding the role of whales in the carbon cycle is a dynamic and emerging field that may benefit both marine conservation and climate-change strategies,” oceanographers said.
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Whales can weigh up to 100 tons, live more than 100 years, and be the size of large airplanes.
Researchers said their hefty biomass is mainly composed of carbon, and they believe that whales may be the largest living carbon pool in the ocean.
“Their size and longevity allow whales to exert strong effects on the carbon cycle by storing carbon more effectively than small animals, ingesting extreme quantities of prey, and producing large volumes of waste products,” said the authors of the study.
Researchers also found that whales play a crucial part in increasing photosynthesis and carbon storage.
According to the study, whales consume up to 4% of their massive body weight daily in krill and photosynthetic plankton — for the blue whale, this equates to nearly 8,000 pounds.
When they finish digesting their food, their excrement is rich in important nutrients that help these krill and plankton flourish, increasing photosynthesis and carbon storage.
What’s even more interesting is that when whales die and their bodies fall to the seafloor, the carbon they contain is then transferred to the deep sea as they decay.
As shown in the diagram, when a whale decays into the deep sea they supplement the biological carbon pump.
However, commercial hunting has decreased whale populations by 81%, leaving unknown effects on biological carbon pump.
“Whale recovery has the potential for long-term self-sustained enhancement of the ocean carbon sink,” researchers said.
They added that the more management interventions and robust conservations efforts should be done to increase the whale population.
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