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Save the whales. Save the world
by providing us with oxygen, supporting vibrant fish stocks, and combatting climate change and all because of where they take their bathroom breaks. A microscopic forest of tiny plant-like organisms, called phytoplankton, drift just below the ocean’s surface in sunlit waters.
These phytoplankton are the very base for the marine food web and produce at least half of the world’s oxygen as they take in carbon dioxide during a complex chemical reaction known as photosynthesis. Like plants on land, phytoplankton need the sun’s energy, water, carbon dioxide, and nutrients like iron and phosphate to photosynthesize; a process which provides them with food and the planet with oxygen.
However, unlike plants on land, this microscopic forest cannot root into the ocean’s bottom to absorb nutrients and that is where whale poo comes into play!
While whales can dive to great depths to feed, they must wait to surface to relieve themselves as they are unable to poo under pressure (atmospheric pressure, that is!). It is here that the whales’ nutrient rich waste fertilizes the phytoplankton and supports this ocean garden on which we all depend. And because large whales migrate, they continue to free nutrients and mobilize their ecological value for drifting phytoplankton across latitudes. The relatively short life spans of phytoplankton means that the phytoplankton can as these cells eventually sink to the ocean’s body, taking with them the carbon they have absorbed from the atmosphere.
Whales themselves also act as carbon sinks at their end of their natural lives. ”Whale fall” (a sunken whale carcass) also sequesters large amounts of carbon as it becomes a mini-ecosystem of its own, supporting deep-sea organisms for decades.
According to the World Economic Forum, the failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change is among the biggest global risks. Researchers estimate that as a direct result of whaling, large whales now store approximately 9 million tons less carbon than before whaling. With 2016 being the warmest year on record and sea levels continuing to rise, the need to recover whale populations is more important now than ever before.
We need to save these ocean gardeners to save our planet. Your generous contribution will support our ongoing work.