Whales play an amazing role in an ecosystem that keeps every creature on Earth alive, including you!
Humans have done enormous damage to the planet including killing millions of whales and wiping out up to...
...of some populations.
Yet few people, let alone governments, are aware that recovering whale and dolphin populations can undo some of the damage we’ve caused.
How whales support the marine ecosystem.
Whales act as 'ecosystem engineers'. As they dive deep to feed, and then come to the surface to breathe and poo, they circulate huge amounts of nutrients, particularly iron and nitrogen . Whale poo is a brilliant fertiliser for microscopic plants called phytoplankton, which, as the basis for the entire marine ecosystem, remove millions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere and produce massive amounts of oxygen. This is known as the "Whale Pump".
As whales undertake their long migrations, from nutrient rich areas to nutrient poor areas, they transport essential nutrients across the ocean in a process known as the “Great Whale Conveyor Belt”.
It is estimated that as a direct result of whaling, the current populations of large baleen whales now store over 9 million tons less carbon than before whaling.
Experiments showed that whale faeces are some of the most iron-rich material in the ocean. The higher the concentrations of whale poo, the greater the productivity of phytoplankton.
By circulating nutrients and fertilising phytoplankton with their poo, sperm whales in the Southern Ocean help sequester over 19M trees worth of carbon.
If blue whales in the Southern Ocean recovered to pre-whaling levels, they could provide enough nutrients for phytoplankton to store over 6 billion trees worth of carbon.
Carbon in the atmosphere is a significant cause of climate change.
Climate change is the greatest threat to all life on Earth.
So, the more whales there are, the more phytoplankton there is, and the more carbon is taken out of the atmosphere.
Even in death, whales sustain life. When they die, whales sink to the seabed, where they become oases for marine life, taking huge amounts of carbon with them to the sea-bed. Researchers estimate that large whales store approximately nine million tonnes less carbon now than they did before large-scale whaling.
Save the whale.
Save the planet.
Planet Earth needs a healthy ocean. And a healthy ocean needs whales. It isn’t enough to conserve species, populations and individuals. We need to restore their ocean environment and allow populations to recover to levels that existed before industrial scale whaling and fishing devastated the oceans.
WDC is working to integrate the ecological role of whales and dolphins into global policies on biodiversity, climate change, environment, conservation, fisheries and MPAs (Marine Protected Areas).
With your help we can:
- Undertake much-needed research. We are already funding ground-breaking research, and need to expand this to further understand the impact whales have on marine productivity and carbon capture.
- Use this emerging science and data to unlock a wave of new policy changes to eliminate threats and restore populations.
- Campaign to expose the threats facing whales and dolphins.
If you’d like to know more about how whales help fight climate change, please read our report, which includes full references to scientific papers: Whales - their future is our future