Killing dozens of whales in the ocean and rising global warming poses a threat to the earth and its inhabitants. This is a huge cause for concern. It may surprise you to know whales are a creature that can help in minimizing the effect of climate change on the planet. Scientists have emphasized the need to preserve whales as they are useful creatures that can help in limiting global warming.
CO2 is the most commonly produced greenhouse gas by human activities, and it is responsible for more than 60% of man-made global warming. A whale can absorb up to 33,000kg of CO2 over its life, unlike a tree that can only absorb 22kg of CO2 a year. The presence of whales brings with it phytoplankton, which are microscopic photosynthetic organisms that live suspended in water. They grow wherever the whale goes. Phytoplankton can absorb about 40% of all CO2, an equivalent of 1.7 million trees or four Amazon rainforests combined. Needless to say that we need more whales in the oceans. Whales are an incredibly helpful animal. Another intriguing fact is that rotting beached whales can explode.
The higher the number of whales in the sea, the more phytoplankton that can grow. Having just a 1% rise in phytoplankton will be equivalent to planting 2 billion mature trees. What’s more, the excrement of whales provides fertilizer for phytoplankton. This makes the microorganism blossom and helps to absorb even more carbon. This phenomenon of whales helping to reduce the productivity of phytoplankton is called ‘whale pump’. Whales play a vital role in maintaining the oceans’ health as they release about 50% of oxygen into the water, which helps to sustain other aquatic life. Their busy activities such as diving and migrating within the surface and depth of the ocean help to circulate essential nutrients around the oceans.
It is quite unfortunate that human activities contribute to the near extinction of whales. A 2010 scientific paper explained that on land, humans directly influence the carbon stored in the terrestrial ecosystem through logging and the burning of forests and grasslands. This adds an enormous amount of carbon into the atmosphere, increasing global warming. However, in the open ocean, the carbon cycle is assumed to be free of direct human influences. The impact of whales in the oceans and sea is in no small measure!
Industrialized whaling was reportedly banned in most places in 1986. The number of whales in existence have reduced drastically – only a quarter of whales previously in the oceans now exist. On the other hand, CO2 has risen significantly and has reached the highest level in 3 million years. So, it is important more than ever before to find ways of absorbing CO2. Restoring the number of whales is paramount. This action can help absorb 1.3 billion tons of carbon each year. Doing this also means humans are employing nature’s own technology to combat climate change.
Years of industrialized whaling has contributed immensely to the reduction in the population of whales in the seas and oceans. This number is yet to rebound. IMF reports that if the 1.3 million or so of whales alive today are left to rebound to their pre-whaling numbers of 4 million to 5 million, it could significantly increase the amount of phytoplankton in the oceans. There must be coordinated efforts the world over to minimize the threats to which whales are exposed so that the earth can boast of an agent that can prove vital in the effort to curb the greenhouse effect. Every single whale that breathes in the ocean is a potential ‘warrior’ in the battle to save the earth from the harsh hands of global warming.
Some countries still engage in large-scale whaling. This is a step back from the fight against climate change. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), more than 1000 whales a year are killed despite the ban placed on commercial whaling. Continued industrialized whaling will reduce the population of whales, meaning that the planet will have hard time fighting against global warming. There is a need for all countries to reach a consensus about the deliberate action of saving the planet earth. One of which is to encourage the continued preservation of whales in the oceans.
Most terrestrial organisms, when they die, the carbon they bear in their body is released directly into the atmosphere. But in the case of fish, particularly whales, the carbon is stored deep down in the water bodies for many years. The sad news is that these carbons sedimented in the seas and oceans do not just remain there. They are eventually released into the atmosphere, making it even worse than that of the other organisms.
How relieving it is to know that recognizing the valuable contribution whales make towards having safer earth can save the world from incurring the huge cost involved in procuring or devising technologies aimed at curbing the effect of climate change. The loss of each whale is a loss of opportunity for carbon sequestration, a good reason why we must protect them. The amazingly large creature leaves one wondering about the amount of carbon it can sequester.
Efforts are being made for scientists to make political leaders see the convincing reasons why they should treat as urgent the need to protect whales from going into extinction by quantifying the benefit in terms of money. The leaders in those countries where commercial whaling is practiced can do better to make those involved see how they are unconsciously contributing to the menace of global warming. And if possible, make legislations to that effect. Massive public awareness on the contribution of whales and the benefits of safer health will also be a step in the right direction.
Humans have a huge role to play if we are to have more whales in the oceans. When we have more whales, our oceans become healthier and more habitable for aquatic life; there will be a reduction in the C02 released into the atmosphere, and we can boast of a safer ozone layer. Our generation can contribute immensely to beating down the impacts of climate change and save both wildlife and aquatic life.
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