MAR 20, 2017 6:34 PM PDT

Can whales change their environments?


Perhaps you have never thought about where all a whale's poop goes. Well, as soon as you think about it, you've got your answer. But the impressive part of the process is that a whale's so-called fecal plumes actually acts a a huge fertilizer for the surface waters of the oceans. Rich in iron and nitrogen, whales' waste provides the nutrients necessary for photosynthetic plankton to thrive in the photic zone.

But not only do the whales provide fertilizing assistance, by plunging up and down throughout the photic zone, they circulate the photoplankton within the waters, giving them more time to reproduce. And more reproduction means more plankton, which provide bigger species more food (such as the whales themselves who eat krill who in turn eat photoplankton).

More photoplankton is also crucial to our planet's climate because these organisms absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. In that way, whales may be responsible for removing tens of millions of tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year - something that is critical for our warming planet. So stand up for whales, stand up for photoplankton, stand up for the planet, stand up for yourself!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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