Odds are, you’ve never tried to imagine the enormity of a whale’s excrement. Or perhaps you have, and you can truly wrap your head around how substantial, and messy, the “flocculent fecal plumes” of these incredibly large mammals can be. What you may not know, that scientists are now considering, is that whale poop can help save our acidifying oceans.
How can a couple of whale turds make an impact? The nutritious, krill-dense waste substance is consumed by vast amounts of plankton, who, in turn, take acidifying carbon out of the ocean waters when they photosynthesize as well as when they die and sink to the ocean floor. Whale poop pretty much fertilizes the photosynthesizers of the ocean, and when the whales die, their massive carcasses also sink to the floor with tons of CO2 trapped within. Some scientists estimate that even the small current whale population could be displacing some 400,000 tons of CO2 every year.
Where whales are still somewhat numerous — like the Southern Ocean — the whale pump, as it’s known, spreads nitrogen and binds up carbon in an environmentally substantial way. However, with the severe decline of whales worldwide due to commercial over-hunting — along with the exponentially worsening acidification of our oceans — the marine ecosystem has suffered a steep tip in its delicate balance. Whales are the guardians of our precious oceans, and their poaching only speeds up the impending acidification. Certainly, whales may not be able to singlehandedly solve the problem of our dying oceans, but these giant mammals have a significant impact on CO2 binding that could potentially retard the process if present in great enough numbers.
To state it blatantly: more whales, more whale poop, more healthy photosynthesizing plankton, less carbon. Let’s protect the whales.
Do you believe that more efforts to save the whales could put a dent in the damage we’ve done to our oceans? Is a little whale poop enough to help realign our precious ecosystem?