Big Fish

Whales’ Global Impact Underestimated




Whales have long been considered too rare to be the focus of overall marine ecological research, with more attention going to much smaller essential organisms like algae and plankton. However, as whales recover from centuries of overhunting that reduced their numbers by two-thirds or more, scientists are realizing the important role they play in transferring fertilizers like iron and nitrogen from deep waters to feed plankton near the surface via plumes of fecal matter.

A study at the University of Vermont, published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, evaluates decades of research on the ecological role of great whales. Lead author Joe Roman says, “Whale recovery could lead to higher rates of productivity where whales aggregate to feed and give birth, supporting more robust fisheries.” It seems that the long-lived whales may even ease the impact of perturbations in climate and buffer marine ecosystems from destabilizing stresses.

Roman states, “This warrants a shift in view from whales being positively valued as exploitable goods or negatively valued because they compete with people for marine fish to one what recognizes that these animals play key roles in healthy marine ecosystems, providing services to human societies.”


Source: EcoWatch.com

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Migrating Trees

Three-quarters of American tree species have shifted to the West since 1980 due to dryer conditions in the East and changing rainfall patterns.

Plutonium Problem

To safely dispose of 56 million gallons of nuclear waste dating back to the Second World War, the Department of Energy might replace a glass-log encasement plan with a cement option.

Bat Banter

Computer algorithms helped Israeli researchers decode the language of Egyptian fruit bats and discover that bats exchange information about specific problems.

Tuna Turnaround

Levels of toxic mercury in Atlantic Bluefin tuna declined 19 percent between 2004 and 2012, a drop that scientists attribute to a shift from coal to natural gas and renewable energy.

Buzzing RoboBees

Harvard researchers have invented tiny robotic bees that may be able to eventually pollinate the crops that are under threat because of vanishing bee colonies.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags