1 Tahrcountry Musings: Whales Help Offset Carbon Emission

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Whales Help Offset Carbon Emission

Here is an interesting piece of information about sperm whales. Australian researchers say Sperm whale faeces may help oceans absorb carbon dioxide from the air. The research was led by Dr Trish Lavery from Flinders University in Adelaide.
Sperm whales release about 50 tonnes of iron every year via its faeces. This stimulates the growth of phytoplankton which absorbs CO2 during photosynthesis. This in turn results in the absorption of about 40,000 tonnes of carbon which is more than twice as much as the whales release by breathing. The calculations are based on Southern Ocean sperm whales. The researchers say that the global total could be much more substantial. Lack of iron limits phytoplankton growth in many regions.
The sperm whales eat mainly squid in the deep ocean, and defecate in the upper waters where phytoplankton can grow. Here is the twist. If the sperm whales eat and defecate in the same place they would absorb and release the same amounts of iron. Myriad are the ways of nature.

Details are published in Royal Society journal Proceedings B

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