Did you know whales play a vital role in managing the health of our oceans?
These incredible animals are able to modify the environment around them and help:
- Minimise the effects of climate change
- Support healthy commercial fisheries
- Support thriving marine tourism industries
How do whales affect fisheries?
As whales move between the Poles and Tropics they visit their feeding and breeding grounds, where they defecate and fertilise the oceans.
This input of nutrients encourages the growth of tiny marine organisms called phytoplankton.
Much like land plant species, phytoplankton is at the base of food chains – but in the ocean.
This phytoplankton allows other more complex species to grow, such as fish and ocean giants – like the dwarf minke whales I went diving with in Australia this year.
Phytoplankton is an ocean superhero, supporting the productivity of marine food chains and also supporting the commercial fisheries we rely upon.
Without phytoplankton blooms – and the nutrient input from whales – such marine ecosystems and fisheries could collapse.
How do whales affect climate change?
As phytoplankton blooms, it absorbs and removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – much like plants do on land.
In the Southern Ocean, the 12,000 or so sperm whales found there enrich the iron-poor waters with their faeces, allowing phytoplankton to bloom.
These whales remove 200 000 tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere each year.
What happens when whales die?
Whales also remove carbon from the atmosphere when they die.
Whale carcasses contain a huge amount of carbon, which sinks to the ocean floor and provides food for numerous species that depend on these ‘whale falls’.
Both of these carbon cycles limit the impacts of climate change by removing climate-affecting carbon from our atmosphere.
Find out more about this topic in the ocean superheroes infographic I have produced with a talented designer for LiveAboard.com, as well as:
- Threats to whales
- Where you can swim with whales
- How you can help save whales
It is a great resource for adults and children to learn all about the importance of whales.
You can download a copy of the infographic at the link below:
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