(ORDO NEWS) — There are many ways to combat global warming, from planting forests to restoring wetlands. Now, however, scientists are proposing to “call for help” the largest consumers of carbon on our planet – whales.
Whales are the biggest gluttons on Earth: every day an adult animal requires up to four tons of food, and they live a very long time – according to some reports, more than 100 years.
At the same time, like all organic creatures, a significant proportion of their giant carcasses is carbon, which makes whales one of the largest carbon pools in the pelagic part of the oceans.
In addition to directly consuming carbon, whales also help other organisms capture carbon from the atmosphere: their mineral-rich feces attract photosynthetic microorganisms.
In addition, whales are known for their long-distance migrations (for example, a humpback whale can travel up to eight thousand kilometers in one season), which allows them to influence the carbon cycle around the world.
But what happens when a whale’s long life ends, and its huge carcass, losing air bubbles, slowly sinks to the bottom? As a result, all the carbon it accumulates ends up in the deep layers of the ocean.
Since the decomposition of organic residues at the bottom is slower than in the upper layers of water or on land (one whale carcass can lie for decades, retaining recognizable outlines), the carbon stored by the whale does not return to the atmosphere for a long time.
Unfortunately, this way of reducing the amount of carbon is barely functioning today due to the sharp decline in the number of whale populations.
Although the number of whales in the world has increased markedly since the ban on commercial whaling, many species are still critically endangered and their numbers continue to decline.
As a result, scientists are calling for more attention to be paid to the protection and restoration of whale populations, because this can significantly increase the outflow of carbon into the ocean and slow down the pace of global warming.
With many species of whales now numbering only a few thousand, their impact on the carbon cycle is small, but with a total population of 4-5 million restored (that’s how many whales swam in the oceans before commercial hunting began), one can hope for noticeable changes.
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