Did you know most whale poo is liquid?
Had no idea myself. Turns out cetacean waste hangs out at the top layer of the ocean, the photic zone. That in turn has a useful side effect:
Marine biologist Trish Lavery of Australia’s Flinders University estimated that defecation by the Southern Ocean’s sperm whales ultimately sequesters some 400,000 tons of carbon dioxide every year. Prior to their commercial whaling decline, that population alone would have accounted for about roughly the amount emitted by one decent-sized coal-fired power plant.The study (Iron defecation by sperm whales stimulates carbon export in the Southern Ocean) from the above Wired.com article suggests that large whales (Blue, Humpback, Sperm, Sei, Fin, etc.) act as biological pumps, fertilizing the surface which is often nutrient poor, often lacking large amounts of nitrogen or iron.
The study notes that reduced sperm whale populations due to whaling likely resulted in an extra 2,000,000 tonnes of carbon remaining in the atmosphere annually.
But it's not just whale waste that is a carbon sink. Whales themselves store a lot of carbon.
[W]hen whales die naturally, they usually sink to the bottom of the ocean, carrying their carbon with them. Back in 1900, when whale numbers were high, that would have totalled about 200,000 tonnes of carbon per year, Pershing estimates. Even though benthic creatures eventually eat the whale carcasses, the carbon will remain in the depths, Pershing says, staying "out of the atmosphere for potentially hundreds of years".There are an estimated 200,000 sperm whales currently alive. Before whaling kicked into high gear, there was estimated to be 1,100,000 sperm whales globally. That population was able to sequester 2 million tonnes of carbon each year.
And even though all of these animals' biomass combined represents a small fraction of total human carbon emissions, they could still sequester many tonnes of carbon. "You could use carbon as one of the incentives to rebuild the stores of these large organisms," Pershing says.
Currently, there are only 8,000 blue whales, compared to historical estimates of more than 200,000 blue whales in the Antarctic Ocean alone. How much carbon was that historical populace able to sequester?
Whale conservation could be just as effective as reforestation efforts in fighting global warming.