April 24, 2010

Climate Change: Whale Poop To The Rescue!

Australian scientists say that whale feces are a likely element in the fight against climate change.

Experts from the Australian Antarctic Division discovered that whale feces effectively place a plant-friendly fertilizer into ocean water.

"When whales consume the iron-rich krill, they excrete most of the iron back into the water, therefore fertilizing the ocean and starting the whole food cycle again," scientist Steve Nicol told the AFP.

The researchers said that if whale numbers grow, their feces could help marine plant life flourish, which inevitably improves the ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide, which is to blame for global warming.

Chemical oceanographer Andrew Bowie said that iron is a vital element in the production of marine plants, although it is a scarce element in the "anemic" Southern Ocean.

"One-third of the world's oceans are low in trace element iron," the researcher at the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Center told AFP.

According to Bowie, whales consume tons of krill each day and this finds its way back into oceans through liquid-form, reddish brown emissions.

He said that although researchers were confident that whale feces would contain iron, they were surprised at the high concentration.


Image Caption: Aerial photograph of a whale in the Southern Ocean. Credit: J. Brokowski


On the Net: