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Study reveals whales may not be reliable ‘climate savers’


humpback from above. Credit: Olaf Meinecke

Do whales increase carbon removal from the atmosphere?

Despite some hope that this may be the case, a new study led by Griffith University and a team of global researchers finds that there is too little potential carbon capture by whales to meaningfully alter the course of climate change.

Marine scientist Dr Olaf Meinecke and a team from the Whale and Climate Research Program led by Griffiths, including Professor Brendan Mackey and Dr Jasper DP, have reviewed the basic ways in which baleen whales (like humpback whales) remove carbon from the atmosphere on a regional and global scale. global standards.

The team found that the amount the whales could potentially excrete was too small to make a significant impact on the course of climate change.

“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,” said Dr. Meneke.

“While our research group would very much like to highlight the opposite in order to benefit whale conservation and perhaps one day use carbon credits to support research, the controversy is misleading and creates false hope.”

“This is in contrast to the media immortalizing whales as climate engineers.”

“Creating a false hope that charismatic species’ ability to be climate engineers may serve to delay the urgent behavioral change required to avoid catastrophic climate change impacts, which in turn could have indirect consequences for the recovery of whale populations.”

The team stressed that the ocean carbon cycle is a major driver of the world’s climate, and further investigation of the gaps in the whales’ ecology will help clarify their contribution to this.

There are other possible pathways that whales might contribute to carbon sequestration: through their biomass in which carbon is held for decades (depending on their lifespan); When a whale dies, it falls to the ocean floor, where it may eventually be covered by sediment.

And while whales have been vital to the healthy functioning of marine ecosystems, Dr. Meinecke said exaggerating their ability to prevent or offset human-caused changes in global carbon budgets may inadvertently redirect attention from well-established approaches to reducing greenhouse gases.

“Previous estimates ignore the scale at which carbon sequestration has occurred both temporally and spatially. Some of the proposed carbon sequestration pathways such as whale precipitation (when whales die and sink to the ocean floor but retain carbon for decades) also underestimate the significance of whale respiration.”

“We think it’s important to recognize that there are other values ​​for whales that are more relevant to driving conservation than carbon capture.”

“Large-scale protection of marine environments, including whale habitats, will build resilience and help capture natural carbon on a global scale.”

Research “Do whales really increase ocean removal of atmospheric carbon?” Posted in Frontiers in Marine Sciences.

more information:
Do whales really increase ocean removal of atmospheric carbon? Frontiers in Marine Sciences (2023). DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2023.1117409

Provided by Griffith University

the quoteDont rely on whales as ‘climate savers’, says study (2023, June 4) Retrieved June 4, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-06-dont-whales-climate-savers.html ‘.

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