Whale Poop Does Oceans of Good

Whale feces replenish carbon and nitrogen in world's oceans
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2012 7:58 AM CDT
Whales are some of the world's most majestic creatures, with poops to match.    (robmayeda)

(Newser) – Hope floats, and so, too, does whale poop. In fact, we should be thankful for whale poop's buoyant nature, marine scientists say, as the “flocculent fecal plumes" of the world's largest animals are one of the more important sources of nutrients for the oceans, reports Wired. While the carbon- and nitrogen-rich excretions of most fish sink, the orange, krill-rich whale plumes, which can measure as long as the whale itself, are vital for replenishing the world's waters. “Whales and marine mammals can fertilize their surface waters,” says one conservation biologist. “This can result in more plankton, more fish, and more whales.”

And more plankton, in turn, can assist in the fight against climate change: In plankton's life cycle, it sucks in carbon as it grows, then buries it in on the ocean's bottom as it dies and sinks. Birds, seals, and marine mammals also help enrich surface waters, but none on the same scale as whales—one recent study in the Gulf of Maine estimates that, even with whale populations a fraction of what they once were, whales add more nitrogen to the gulf than all its feeder streams and rivers combined. (Read more whales stories.)

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