There are five different ways in which whales can contribute to removal of atmospheric carbon:
1. Whale pump
The whale moves nutrients from bottom to top of ocean. All whales dive underwater to feed and return to the surface to breathe. At the surface, they release buoyant faecal plumes that are rich in the nutrients that tiny marine plants, called phytoplankton, need for growth. This is...
1. Whale pump
The whale moves nutrients from bottom to top of ocean. All whales dive underwater to feed and return to the surface to breathe. At the surface, they release buoyant faecal plumes that are rich in the nutrients that tiny marine plants, called phytoplankton, need for growth. This is a process that marine scientists call the Whale Pump.
2. Whale conveyor belt
The whales move nutrients from nutrient rich to nutrient poor regions in the ocean. Many whales migrate from high latitude feeding grounds that are nutrient-rich, to low latitude breeding grounds that are nutrient-poor. While on the breeding grounds, whales release urea which is rich in nitrogen. This transport of nutrients across ocean basins helps stimulate phytoplankton growth.
3. Whale biomass
All living things are made of carbon, and thus serve as carbon reservoirs throughout their lifespans. The larger the animal, the more carbon is stored. Additionally, the longer the lifespan, the longer the carbon is stored. Whales capture carbon in their big bodies and are known to have a long life span, thus capturing the carbon through their long life. Some whales, such as bowhead whales, can live for over 200 years while some sharks, such as Greenland sharks, can live for over 400 years, storing large quantities of carbon for long periods of time.
4. Whale falls
When large marine vertebrates die, their carcasses sink to the seafloor, bringing a lifetime of trapped carbon with them. On the deep seafloor, the carbon inside their carcass can support deep-sea ecosystems and be incorporated into marine sediment, keeping the carbon locked away from the atmosphere for millions of years.
5. Whale bioturbation
Whales mix the ocean layers through movement as their (and other marine animals') vertical migration help to bring nutrients towards our ocean's surface. These nutrients are used by phytoplankton which in turn absorb carbon dioxide. Whales bring nutrients to phytoplankton by swimming from the great depths and thus help bring nutrients to shallower waters.
* Phytoplankton play a central role in the global carbon cycle by absorbing carbon dioxide. They are also crucial because they form the base of the marine food web.
Sew a cute Blue Whale for yourself while getting educated on the impact global warming has on some of these oceanic creatures.