Whales, these spectacular mammals, adored and worshipped by thousands of people never cease to amaze us.
A fascination partially fuelled by the fact that we know too little about them. Did you know that humpback whale mating has only been witnessed just recently? Yet, we have discovered lately that whales play a much more bigger role for the ecosystem than we thought.
A 2014 study highlighted that whales capture and accumulate carbon during their lives by storing it in their fat. In fact, when whales die, they sink and bring a big carbon bubble to the bottom of the ocean. The carbon will be stored for thousands of years. All living things are made of carbon and the bigger and older is the creature, the more carbon is stored. It is said that whales capture 33 tons of carbon on average (during their whole life) against 20kgs a year for a tree. If a tree lives up to 70 years old, it is 1.4 tons of carbon captured thus 23 times less than a whale!
How do whales capture carbon?
In fact, the biggest mammals on Earth help capture carbon in many ways. It is a very well thought process engineered by Mother Nature in which whales play a major role. Whales feed on plankton and krill and will later release very high in nutrient faeces. The so called « poo-namis » will stimulate the reproduction and growth of phytoplankton and marine algae which will then consume carbon dioxide through photosynthesis. From nutrient-poor area to nutrient-rich waters, whales migrations help the development and growth of phytoplankton across the world.
Who knew these microscopic livings played such a big role in the carbon absorption scheme?
The more whales there are, the more plankton there is. The more plankton there is, the more carbon is drawn out of the air. When whales were at their highest population before killings and meat consumption, it seems they might have been responsible for removing millions of tons of carbon from the atmosphere every year.
Another good reason to protect our oceans and wildlife!
Plus, May to November is the best time to whale watch in Australia especially off the coasts of South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales! Also, if you choose to whale watch with a boat, please pick a respectful company that follows guidelines and regulations regarding animal welfare!