Friday, November 05, 2021

Killing Whales was a Bad Move

The thing is that we killed most of the big Blue Whales. Blue whales eat krill and then whale poo provides fertiliser for the phytoplankton, which photosynthesise, taking carbon from out of the atmosphere. But since we killed the whales there's no fertiliser for the phytoplankton that the krill eat. When the few krill that do live, die of old age instead of being eaten by whales, they just drop to the bottom of the ocean, removing nutrients out of reach of the phytoplankton. So then there's less carbon sequestration and then there's less food for the krill. So there's less krill. That means there's less food for the few whales that we didn't manage to kill, so they don't thrive. So there's less whale poo, which means there's less nutrient recycling for the phytoplankton so there's less carbon sequestration and less food for the krill and so less food for the whales which means.... hang on... I think we've been here before. This is just going round in ever diminishing circles. Except for the carbon dioxide in the air above the ocean, which keeps increasing, that causes global heating and the carbon dioxide dissolved in the ocean that causes ocean acidification. That's bad for sea-life that needs a high pH, such as phytoplankton. And we know what happens when the phytoplankton don't do well; it's just one thing on top of another.

We really shouldn't have killed the whales. Bad move.

Gaia Vince and her interviewees do a better job of explaining all this in this week's episode of Inside Science on Radio 4.

Sir David King, former UK Chief Scientist and general good bloke, is on the case.
Here's the latest news.

The plan is to add some fertiliser to the ocean, particularly the iron that phytoplankton are short of, what with living in the ocean instead of soil on land where there's plenty of iron.  The phytoplankton will grow better, sequestering carbon dioxide and so slowing global warming and ocean acidification and the krill will thrive because there's phytoplankton to eat again and then the whales will thrive because there's krill to eat and the the whales will do their poos and recycle the nutrients to the phytoplankton and... well you can guess the rest.

We really ought to support Sir David King and his friends at the Climate Crisis Advisory Group. They are coming up with answers.

Here's a picture of a Blue Whale and here's some things to know.

This is a painting of Sir David King, when he was looking sad, perhaps thinking about the whales.


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1:21 pm  

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