Whale poo to save climate

2010-04-23 14:33

Sydney - Whale droppings have emerged as a natural ocean fertiliser which could help combat global warming by allowing the Southern Ocean to absorb more carbon dioxide (CO2), Australian scientists have found.

New research from the Australian Antarctic Division suggests whales naturally fertilise surface waters with iron-rich whale excrement, allowing the whole eco-system to send more carbon down into deep waters.

"The plants love it and it actually becomes a way of taking carbon out of the atmosphere," said Antarctic scientist Steve Nicol, adding the droppings appear as a plume of solids and liquids.

A larger population of baleen whales and krill would boost the productivity of the whole Southern Ocean ecosystem and could improve the absorption of CO2, blamed for global warming.

Iron is a limited micronutrient in the Southern Ocean, but recent experiments have found that adding soluble iron to surface waters helps promote much-needed phytoplankton algal blooms.

Self sustaining system

Iron is contained in algae in the surface waters where plants grow, but there is a constant rain of iron-rich particles falling into deep waters.

When krill eat the algae, and whales eat the krill, the iron ends up in whale excrement, and the iron levels are kept up in surface waters where it is most needed.

"We reckon whale poo is probably 10 million times more concentrated with iron than sea water," Nicol said.

"The system operates at a high level when you have this interaction between the krill, the whales and the algae and they maintain the system at a very high level of production. So it's a self sustaining system."

Nicol said the idea to research whale droppings came from a casual pub chat among Antarctic scientists in Australia's island state of Tasmania.

He said it was not yet known how much poo it would take have a significant impact on the Southern Ocean.

  • swirl - 2010-04-23 14:42

    Oh crap ..... are you serious ?

  • GBES - 2010-04-23 15:10

    STOP KILLING WHALES !Thank God for this study,proving once again that science will save this the planet.Environmentalists can now persuade the politicians,to ban the killing of whales.It is for the good of their children & grandchildren.

  • JD - 2010-04-23 15:17

    So that means Japan's and Iceland’s whaling fleet are contributing to also global warming – more reason to totally ban whaling!!!

  • Miss Ledi - 2010-04-23 15:21

    aah, clearly not all crap is crappy :)

  • Merc - 2010-04-23 15:37

    Going to need a whole lot of whale poo to whack the carbon dioxide that we have.

    I looooove the smell of whale poo in the morning.

  • Henry - 2010-04-23 17:02

    Boy do the scientists have problems with the volcano. All that heat that is going into the atmosphere. That will raise the temperature a few degrees not 1/4 of a degree as presently stated by them. All that dust that will keep the heat on earth. Now the oceans are going acid. Must be from all the acid rain we are having. Can they not spend money on something useful?? You better warn the wales not to get killed and stay out of harms way.

  • Isaid - 2010-04-24 08:26

    This is the largest heap of crap (and yes - largest...)

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