We Need The Whales To Remove As Much CO2 From The Atmosphere As Possible

Whales are an excellent alternative to the more complex systems for capturing and storing excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

We Need The Whales To Remove As Much CO2 From The Atmosphere As Possible

There are several solutions proposed globally for the capture and storage of CO 2 dispersed into the atmosphere by human activities. Often, however, these are complex and costly strategies, such as those adopted in industrial engineering, or palliative strategies, such as the planting of hundreds or millions of trees. There is a simpler, more ethical, and less costly and energy-intensive solution: increase the global whale population .

Because fin whales help capture CO 2

A research team made up of several marine biologists recently discovered the carbon sequestration potential of whales , which is truly amazing. These cetaceans accumulate carbon in their bodies over their long life, just like any other living organism, and when they die, their remains are deposited on the ocean floor.

The blue whale ( Balaenoptera musculus ), the largest living cetacean, absorbs an average of 33 tonsof carbon dioxide both in gaseous and dissolved state in ocean waters, removing this amount of carbon from the atmosphere for centuries after death. To make a comparison, a tree absorbs on average only 22 kg of CO 2 per year, therefore to equal efficiency a whale whose average life span is slightly over 60 years, 1500 trees would have to be planted , subtracting space for other types of ecosystems, or a single centuries-old tree that will take 1500 years to do the same.

The increase of phytoplankton

In addition to constituting an excellent stock of carbon dioxide, whales guarantee an abundant production of phytoplankton , which in turn is responsible for the production of oxygen and further absorption of CO 2 . This is possible thanks to the "fertilization" of ocean waters that whales carry out through digestion waste. Cetaceans feed on small invertebrates such as krill on the seabed and return to the surface to breathe. With their ascending “pump” or “conveyor belt” movements, the whales disperse their faeces, rich in nitrogen and iron minerals, in the water column, the main nourishment for the phytoplankton which, thanks to these, can grow and multiply, triggering a virtuous circuit of oxygen production and CO 2 capture . It is estimated that these microscopic organisms contribute to releasing about 50% of all oxygen present into the atmosphere, capturing approximately 37 billion tons of CO 2 , the equivalent sequestered by1.70 trillion trees, or if you prefer four Amazon rainforests.

The current situation in the conservation of cetaceans

While some species are increasing in the southern hemisphere, overall the global whale population is seriously threatened by indiscriminate human whaling, collisions with large vessels, ghost nets and increasingly hotter water temperatures decimating the krill population. Biologists estimate that over the years the number of these aquatic mammals has decreased by less than a quarter - from 5 million to the current 1.3 million - and some species, such as the blue whale, have reached 3% of the original population. If whale populations were allowed to grow again, a quantity of phytoplankton would be reached in a short time to sequester hundreds of millions of tons of CO 2 per year.

Together with efficient forest restoration policies and emission cuts, it would constitute an alternative atmospheric carbon sequestration strategy that avoids, among other things, the risk of unexpected damage to gas stock sites from sudden geological events or silent leaks .

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