Do Whales Help Remove Carbon from the Atmosphere?

Do Whales Help Remove Carbon from the Atmosphere?
Do Whales Help Remove Carbon from the Atmosphere?

Despite some optimism, a new study by Griffith University and a group of international academics has found that the amount of potential carbon captured by whales is insufficient to significantly influence the direction of climate change.

Professor Brendan Mackey of the Whales and Climate Research Program at Griffith University and Dr. Jasper De Bie analyzed the main mechanisms by which baleen whales (such as humpback whales) remove atmospheric carbon on a regional and global scale.

The team discovered that the amount the whales could potentially hold is too small to have a significant impact on the course of climate change.

Dr. “Our study supports that whales are important to the marine ecosystem, but their contribution to the global carbon flow is too small to effectively reduce atmospheric carbon,” Meynecke said.

“Our research team would love to highlight the opposite in order to benefit whale conservation and perhaps one day use carbon credits to support research, but the discussion is misleading and fuels false hopes.”

This contrasts with the media continuing to promote whales as climate engineers.

Falsely encouraging charismatic creatures to serve as climate engineers could further delay the fundamental behavioral change needed to escape the devastating effects of climate change, with unintended negative effects on the recovery of whale populations.

The researchers stressed that the ocean carbon cycle has a significant impact on global warming and that further research on ecological knowledge gaps in whales will help clarify their role in this process.

Whales can store carbon in their biomass for decades, depending on how long they live. They can also contribute to the capture of carbon by falling to the ocean floor after they die, where they can eventually become covered with sediment.

Dr. Meynecke cautioned that while whales are essential for the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems, overstating their capacity to halt or offset human-induced changes in the global carbon budget risks inadvertently diverting attention from tried-and-true strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Previous estimates do not take into account the extent of the temporal and spatial occurrence of carbon sequestration. Whale respiration is also overlooked in some proposed carbon sequestration processes, such as whale drop (when whales die and land on the ocean floor, they hold carbon for decades).

We believe it is critical to recognize that whale conservation is primarily motivated by factors other than carbon sequestration.

“Conserving marine environments at scale, including whale habitats, will build resilience and help with natural carbon capture on a global scale.”

Source: Frontiers in Marine Science, “Do whales really increase the removal of atmospheric carbon from the oceans?” published a study entitled

📩 05/06/2023 14:31