- Whales store huge amounts of CO2
- They support the growth of phytoplankton, which stores 40% of all carbon produced
- A 1% increase in phytoplankton productivity is equivalent to 2 billion mature trees
They are majestic, massive and mysterious – and they could hold a secret for combating climate change.
Now, researchers have put a price on the value that whales bring to the world.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated the value of a single great whale at more than $2 million – which comes to more than $1 trillion for the current stock of great whales.
The IMF based its figures on each whale’s contribution to carbon capture, the fishing industry and the whale-watching sector, which is worth over $2 billion.
Whales vs trees
Over a lifespan of around 60 years, whales – especially great whales, such as right and grey whales – accumulate an average of 33 tonnes of CO2. When they die, they sink to the bottom of the ocean, locking that carbon away for hundreds of years.
By comparison, a tree absorbs up to 48 pounds of CO2 a year.
Part of the carbon capture potential for whales comes down to their role in increasing phytoplankton productivity wherever they go – a phenomenon called the ‘whale pump’.
The ocean helps to regulate the climate by holding 50 times more CO2 than the atmosphere, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). But even a small change in the way carbon enters the ocean could affect the ocean’s storage capacity.
It’s a new way of looking at the whale population – and the impact could be earth-changing.
via: World economic forum