How whales can save the polar bears

by    DiveSSI    15th February 2017
Blue Whale and Calf
Blue Whale (c) Andrew Sutton
Infografik-Karbon_c_WDC
Infografik-Phytoplankton_c_WDC

Protecting whales means protecting global climate

They are the symbol of the threat that climate changes poses to our
planet: starving polar bears fighting for survival on ever-dwindling
ice floes.

The rise in global temperatures has deprived them of their
homes. At the same time, it is a threat to the future of humanity.

According to the World Economic Forum, the lack of measures to avert
climate change is the greatest global risk in today's world.

Now, polar
bears can get a helping hand from an unexpected source: the whales.

While international agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris
Convention stipulate a reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions,
the whales' significant environmental role in mitigating climate change
has been completely ignored.

The international whale and dolphin
protection organization (WDC) wants to change this with their campaign
“Der Grüne Wal” (literally, “The Green Whale”).

Many scientific studies
show that healthy whale populations are being affected by climate
change. However, the absence of these “ecosystem engineers” would have
unimagined consequences for our planet.

Phytoplankton (microscopic marine plants that float in the upper layers
of the ocean) convert sunlight into energy and oxygen by means of
photosynthesis. They produce at least half of the oxygen in our
atmosphere. At the same time, they form the basis of marine food webs.
They serve as food for zooplankton, which are in turn consumed by fish
and marine animals like whales. The whales' excrement in turn fertilise
the phytoplankton with iron, nitrogen and other nutrients, completing
the “cycle”. Thus, more whales mean more plankton, and more fish in the
ocean.

In addition, phoytoplankton not only produces oxygen, but they also
absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Like phytoplankton, the
bodies of whales sink to the seafloor after they die, binding the
carbon that they have consumed over their lifetime into their bodies.

About three million whales perished due to industrial whaling in the
20th century alone. A gradual recovery in whale stocks would mean the
removal of around 200,000 tonnes of carbon every year, which is
equivalent to the carbon storage of 110,000 hectares of forest,” said
WDC's Programme Director Astrid Fuchs in German.

“After the 1986 international whaling
ban, some populations have slowly recovered. However, we must not only
ensure that the populations continue to grow, but also that they remain
stable in the long term. Whales may be taken out of the ecological
equation, by whaling, ship collisions or by becoming bycatch in fishing
nets. 'The Green Whale' is intended to create public awareness of the
immense importance of effective and holistic whale protection,” she continued.

Hence, the recovery and conservation of whale populations must
constitute a vital part of the global strategy to combat climate change.

See here for more information

Written by
DiveSSI
Date
15th February 2017
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