Whale poop fights global warming

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From the Sydney Herald

Southern Ocean sperm whales are an unexpected ally in the fight against global warming, removing the equivalent carbon emissions from 40,000 cars each year in their faeces, a study shows.

The cetaceans have been previously seen as climate culprits because they breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2), the most common greenhouse gas.

But this is only a part of the picture, according to the paper, published in the British journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

In a heroic calculation, Australian biologists estimated that about 12,000 sperm whales in the Southern Ocean each defecate around 50 tonnes of iron into the sea every year after digesting the fish and squid they hunt.

The iron is a terrific food for phytoplankton – marine plants that live near the ocean surface and which suck up CO2 from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

As a result of faecal fertilisation, the whales remove 400,000 tonnes of carbon each year, twice as much as the 200,000 tonnes of CO2 that they contribute through respiration.

By way of comparison, 200,000 tonnes of CO2 is equal to the emissions of almost 40,000 passenger cars, according to an equation on the website of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The whales’ faeces are so effective because they are emitted in liquid form and close to the surface, before the mammals dive, said the paper.

Industrialised whaling not only gravely threatened Southern Ocean sperm whales, it also damaged a major carbon “sink”, the scientific term for something that removes more greenhouse gases than it produces, it added.

Before industrial whaling, the population of this species was about 10 times bigger, which meant around two million tonnes of CO2 were removed annually, said the paper.

Read the rest here

Moshpit says:In terms of net carbon flows it would appear that man is lower than whale..err stuff. Al Gore has announced an adopt-a-whale program whereby celebrities can gain carbon credits for adopting a whale. Rosie O’Donnell has been signed as the spokesmodel for the program and Bill Gates is funding a geo-engineering effort to seed the worlds oceans with  psyllium seed husks to forestall any climate catastrophes that would result from irregular whales.

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89 Responses to Whale poop fights global warming

  1. Severian says:

    Wait, is it April 1st?

  2. Joe DaSilva says:

    Why is CO2 being indicated in this report as the most common greenhouse gas? I thought that that water vapour had that distinction?

  3. Ted Dooley says:

    Uhhhh… wasn’t the iron already in place before the whale “recycled” it??

  4. Roger Sowell says:

    What organization are the researchers with?

    Was it Conscientious Researchers Analyzing Phytoplankton – C.R.A.P. ?

  5. H.R. says:

    Yeah, but… how much methane do whales produce? Not all of those bubbles you see are coming from the spout end.

    (BTW, how much CO2 do they exhale? They have some honkin’ big lungs.)

  6. John W. says:

    “The cetaceans have been previously seen as climate culprits because they breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2), the most common greenhouse gas.”

    Whoever wrote that sentence is completely insane.

  7. bubbagyro says:

    These academes are so absurd. The iron comes from where? Do whales create it from fusion inside their million degree innards? It comes from plankton, directly or indirectly.

    But they don’t need to. Iron is the most abundant element on this planet, ahead of nitrogen and silicon!

    We have seen so many of these illiterate, unreasoned articles from academia. It’s like the old adage, “You can always tell a Harvard graduate…you just can’t tell him much.” This goes for almost all of the top universities these days.

    I suggest we give out red rubber nose and orange hair awards to the “best” of these. I nominate the present paper. Beep! Beep!

  8. Juraj V. says:

    “because they breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2), the most common greenhouse gas”
    - back to the school, amateurs.

  9. bubbagyro says:

    Another mistake in the paper says that whales were 10 times more prevalent before whaling. Who was counting? Another made up fact.

    It turns out that there are more whales now than at any time in the past 50 years. Moreover, they are so numerous that they out compete other species because of lack of many natural predators.

    From Ellis, R. (1994). Monsters of the Sea. The Lyons Press. p. 245. ISBN 1592289673:

    Sperm whales are prodigious feeders and eat around 3% of their body weight per day. The total annual consumption of prey by sperm whales worldwide is estimated to be about 100,000,000 short tons (91,000,000 t) — a figure greater than the total consumption of marine animals by humans each year.

    Whales are out-competing us for nutritious food…and we are letting them!

  10. HLx says:

    Oh, my god! This is one of the most stupid articles I’ve ever read!!!

    Don’t fish eat these plankton? And whales eat fish? And plankton eats whale poo? And fish eat plankton?… Well, think you’ve got the picture now…

    Anyhow, to remove the CO2 entirely from the system, carbon has to deposited. How does the CO2 get deposited? This makes no sense…

    More questions:
    Doesn’t plankton eat fish-poo too???? Wouldn’t fish be a more efficient way to get a temporary carbon storage, than a whale, which is higher in the food chain?? (The higher you go, the less efficient it gets).. stupid is what stupid does…

  11. Rich says:

    Just a shame that Pres Obama looks like he’s going to back a vote to allow commercial whaling again.

  12. Kirly says:

    “The cetaceans have been previously seen as climate culprits because they breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2), the most common greenhouse gas.”

    uhoh. wouldn’t that make all humans and all animals and, nearly all life on the planet into “climate culprits”?? these people themselves are “carbon culprits”. they should do something themselves to “save the planet”… like stop exhaling. harsh, true, but it’s for the planet!

  13. Xi Chin says:

    Will the Japs have to pay an extra carbon tax then?

  14. Ian E says:

    This IS an April fool, right?

  15. Rhoda R says:

    Whales noble; man bad.

  16. DirkH says:

    What would we do without such scientists? It’s wonderful what modern instruments, pocket calculators and computers enable scientists to do. They’re worth every cent in taxpayers money they got! The pinnacle of humanities quet for knowledge. Thanks, scientists! Keep up the good work! Could we learn more? Penguin faeces, maybe?

  17. anopheles says:

    Can anyone explain how this changes the net amount of iron in the sea? The question is so obvious that I must be missing the answer.

  18. Layne Blanchard says:

    Fascinating how every pet desire of the left fits so neatly into the warming narrative. Even the fixation on locally grown vegetables get credit because they don’t require shipping to a distant destination. Too bad they’ve shut off the water to the central valley to save the Delta Smelt. We’ll have to settle for the e-coli crop from Mexico instead.

  19. Layne Blanchard says:

    The iron comes from their blood. Old blood cells are excreted in feces. True with humans also. So poop away, fellow humans! You are saving the planet!

    Seems I recall someone suggested using a fine iron dust salted into the oceans to cause a plankton bloom to suck up CO2. This idea OF COURSE was discarded since it didn’t achieve the goal of forcing the financial collapse of Capitalism.

  20. Sean says:

    Don’t you just love the politizaton of science. On the positive side, saving whales saves us from climate change. On the negative side, computer modelers were able to prove that those stubborn midwestern senators still using coal to make electricity would suffer more global warming than anyone else and the sea level would rise higher in Washington DC than in most other places. And they were able to figure these things out just before crucial votes in Congress.

  21. Enneagram says:

    This is part of the post-normal-creed “weltangschauung”, which includes the belief in global warming, the adoration of misterious “dark holes”, the reverence to “anti-matter”, the preach of a messed up and stringy universe, where solar “wind” accelerates without a known cause, where phantoms and monsters abide, to scare innocents while priests gather alms for buying their private jets to make their trips to paradise islands or selected tropical resorts, where they use to meet to deliberate about the future of humanity and how to govern those pesky and foul smelling commoners.

  22. kwik says:

    The best thing to do is to kill all animals. I mean ALL.

    And let Gaia exist alone with just her threes and grassy knolls.( And Al Gore?)

    Yes, the final solution.

  23. So, to put this in perspective, if the whale population was 10 times bigger then it’d offset volcanic emissions by about .87% – not terribly large since volcanoes don’t contribute much CO2.

    Compared to decaying plant matter, such a massive increase in whales would offset .0000009% of those carbon emissions, which means we only need 133.3 billion, BILLION, sperm whales to offset CO2 from decaying plants – a mere x20 times the human population of earth and 15,000 times our mass.

    Yep, we need to get started on a sperm whale breeding program right away. :)

  24. Pull My Finger says:

    I will now apply for a grant to research the contents of my poop after various meals, find an ideal CO2 absorbing diet, publish my results, and apply for my own self-sustaining carbon offsets.

    What a bunch of… well.. s**t.

  25. richard telford says:

    anopheles
    Its not the total amount of iron that is being changed, but its distribution.

    The surface waters in the Southern Ocean have low iron concentrations, and this limits photosynthesis. The whales are feeding at depth, and so bring the iron in their food back to the surface where it can enhance photosynthesis.

    The full paper is available (free) at http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2010/06/14/rspb.2010.0863.full

  26. Enneagram says:

    New Bill ….To Shut Down The Internet
    LOL!, then who, among you, inhabitants of the once proudest nation on earth, will be the one who will have to turn lights off?
    May I suggest AL BABY for that task?.

  27. B. Smith says:

    [quote]Sperm whales are prodigious feeders and eat around 3% of their body weight per day. The total annual consumption of prey by sperm whales worldwide is estimated to be about 100,000,000 short tons (91,000,000 t) — a figure greater than the total consumption of marine animals by humans each year.[/quote]

    I didn’t realize we humans prey upon and eat plankton! This “study” is cyber toilet paper, appropriate for this gigantic pile of whale chit.

  28. D. King says:

    Oh yummy!
    Finally, some good news.
    http://tinyurl.com/2cl8wtc

  29. hunter says:

    The Daily Onion is such a great source of humor…wait!@#@? you mean this is a serious article?
    CAGW is hazardous to intelligence and critical thinking.

  30. bubbagyro says:

    richard telford says:
    June 16, 2010 at 11:42 am

    See, this is the type of misinformation that gets spread around. Many seem to wallow in the feces of the warm-earth eco-scholars, taking their outflows as great wisdom!

    Just go to you tube or some such video place and see sperm whales feeding on the surface! Most of the prey for top-line predators in the sea live in the sunlight, or epipelagic zone, the first 200 meters. Whales occasionally dive for squid into the mesopelagic zone, which extends only 1000 meters. Any iron would exist at the benthic region, or at the very bottom, where they cannot go. Unless they stir up the iron in the clay at the bottom with their tails! On purpose, perhaps, to save the earth???

    There is such an overabundance of iron in the sea, that it is not rate limiting. Nitrogen in the sea is limiting.

    This is why we have red tides and other algal blooms in the sea around river mouths that spout fertilizer out. It’s the nitrogen and phosphate pollution, showing that these nutrients are the rate limiting ones.

    As an aside, I think it is a good thing that Inuit and Japanese eat whales. Culling keeps the pods healthy. Why do you think so many pods beach themselves, apparently victims of viral disease? The population, when it gets too high, gets catastrophically managed by Nature. Just like any herds, for health they need to be managed.

  31. Jimbo says:

    What a crock!!! I call BS on this one or rather CS. :o)

  32. bubbagyro says:

    Richard:
    I checked out one of the authors of the “scholarly article” you cited.

    Along with the other definitely not first tier Australian university authors (although being junior colleges does not disqualify them out-of-hand, of course), one of them (Genevieve Johnson, let’s call her “Gennie Baby”) is from a society called earthOCEAN.

    From their website:
    earthOCEAN is a unique media production company based in Melbourne, Australia. We use cutting-edge digital technologies to communicate science, environmental, wildlife, news and current affairs topics to the public in a way that inspires and informs.

    Yeah, I’ll just bet they are “experts” and should probably get a Nobel Prize.

  33. L. Bowser says:

    B. Smith: I didn’t realize we humans prey upon and eat plankton! This “study” is cyber toilet paper, appropriate for this gigantic pile of whale chit.

    Neither do sperm whales. They primarily eat squid, which is definitely sold as Sushi or Calamari.

    As far as the study goes, the whales are taking iron that has been removed from the ocean and “sequestered” in sea life that lives deep in the ocean and returning it to the surface, where it can be used to fertilize phyto-plankton. Since a lot of the iron in the oceans comes from wind blowing soil into the ocean and erosion, anything that nature does to recycle iron back to the surface, in theory, helps increase iron concentration. But let’s be honest, were talking about a gnat on an elephant’s you know what in terms of scale.

  34. jonjermey says:

    “Rosie O’Donnell has been signed as the spokesmodel for the program…”

    Um… maybe they need to talk with their advertising agency.

  35. Steven Mosher says:

    Actually Bill Gates is researching using whales for cloud brightening. Instead of building ships to spray salt water into the air, Gates is looking at Blow hole plugs, that are fashioned to increase the height that whale spray reaches. ahem.

  36. Gus says:

    I have some old steel pipes in the garage that I’m looking to get rid of. Maybe someone will give me some cheap carbon credits if I throw them in the local river. I can assure them that they will rust and send iron oxide down-stream to the ocean. Sounds like a plan to me.

  37. Rhoda R says:

    Does any poo do or does it have to be whale? I’m thinking that maybe we should start pumping raw sewage back into the ocean since it’s so good for the environment.

  38. Ken Mueller says:

    Might this be an argument for not picking up my dog’s crap?

  39. richard telford says:

    bubbagyro

    Sticking to the substantive arguments, rather than the ad hominem –
    In most areas of the ocean N is limiting, but in the southern ocean Fe is the nutrient limiting photosynthesis, and there is excess N. Read the references cited by Lavery et al (2010) or Google “iron limitation southern ocean”.

    The iron the whales are transporting is in their food.

  40. Z says:

    richard telford says:
    June 16, 2010 at 11:42 am

    anopheles
    Its not the total amount of iron that is being changed, but its distribution.

    The surface waters in the Southern Ocean have low iron concentrations, and this limits photosynthesis. The whales are feeding at depth, and so bring the iron in their food back to the surface where it can enhance photosynthesis.

    Does whale crap float then?

  41. richard telford says:

    Z
    Read the paper: it’s online, its free. It explains their assumptions, including which components of the faecal material sink (the squid beaks) and which parts are retained in the photic zone – the remainder representing 75% of the iron.

  42. Rik Gheysens says:

    I should take this article more seriously. I read another short article in Knack (Flanders – Belgium) June 9, 2010,that I translate here:
    The largest whales grow up to 100 tons and live about a century – if we leave them alone anyway. Therefore, large-scale whaling can be seen as the ocean equivalent of large-scale deforestation. The hunt of last century would have released 105 million tons of carbon, the equivalent of cutting of 50,000 square miles of forest. Or, to put it more clearly, they would have caused carbon emissions of 128,000 SUV over one year. Compared to the total balance of carbon in our atmosphere, this is not gigantic.
    One can hunt in order to keep a species healthy but what is happening now is that the whales and fish will be exterminated within twenty years without having a clear insight of what was their impact on the CO2-equilibrium. Is a human the most stupid species of all animals?

  43. Z says:

    Rhoda R says:
    June 16, 2010 at 11:03 am

    Whales noble; man bad.

    Penguins cute; polar bears cuddly; photoshop ubiquitous.

  44. DirkH says:

    “richard telford says:
    [...]
    In most areas of the ocean N is limiting, but in the southern ocean Fe is the nutrient limiting photosynthesis, and there is excess N. Read the references cited by Lavery et al (2010) or Google “iron limitation southern ocean”.

    The iron the whales are transporting is in their food.”

    You a whale poop doctor? That must be so exciting!

  45. Pascvaks says:

    I’m telling you, one of these days the AGW mob is going to put two and two together and we’re all going to be in a pickle. Don’t anyone, I mean anyone, tell them that the ultimate solution has to do with a nice little green virus that only kills people by the billions. It’s bad enough that it won’t be long before fish and seafood are going to be off the menus, along with corn and soybeans and every other plant product. There’s really only one solution, like I said, and if we’re not careful they’re going to figure it out before….WE INTERUPT THIS ENTRY TO BRING YOU A MESSAGE FROM BIG BROTHER, PLEASE STAND BY…

  46. DirkH says:

    “Enneagram says:
    June 16, 2010 at 11:32 am
    This is part of the post-normal-creed “weltangschauung”, which includes the belief in global warming, the adoration of misterious “dark holes”, the reverence to “anti-matter”,[...]”

    Enneagram, don’t criticize anti-matter! It’s the only thing that will help us against…
    materialism.

  47. Al Gore's Holy Hologram says:

    What a load of shite

  48. tallbloke says:

    “The cetaceans have been previously seen as climate culprits because they breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2), the most common greenhouse gas.”

    I thpught the most common greenhouse gas was water vapour. Maybe we need to stop peeing too.

  49. Z says:

    richard telford says:
    June 16, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Z
    Read the paper: it’s online, its free. It explains their assumptions, including which components of the faecal material sink (the squid beaks) and which parts are retained in the photic zone – the remainder representing 75% of the iron.

    I see what the problem is. The bit that says Whales defecate near the surface because they shut down non-crucial biological functions when diving (Kooyman et al. 1981). While a significant proportion of zooplankton and fish defecations is in the form of faecal pellets, which sink below the thermocline where they are rendered unavailable to phytoplankton (Le Fevre et al. 1998), is ambiguous.

    I was reading it as defacation of fish and zooplankton, when it could be defacation by fish and zooplankton. These ones sink – other whale crap floats (apparently) – hence the confusion.

  50. Bruce Cobb says:

    Their argument that whales “remove” 400 kt of carbon, besides being moot in terms of its effect on climate, is also patently absurd. The C02 is mostly just recycled, as the whales (as well as seals, penguins, squid, fish, and even some humans) consume the krill, which consume the phytoplankton which consume iron and C02. The only way phytoplankton can actually sequester the carbon is if they die and sink to the sea floor.

  51. Tom in Florida says:

    “The cetaceans have been previously seen as climate culprits because they breathe out carbon dioxide (CO2)”

    Definition of culprit:
    1. wrongdoer: somebody who is responsible for or guilty of an offense or misdeed
    2. accused person: somebody charged with a crime and awaiting trial
    3. origin of problem: a cause of a problem ( informal )

    How has it come to this? That an animal, living in balance with nature, doing nothing sinister, simply performing the natural task of breathing to stay alive is labeled a wrongdoer.

  52. Z says:

    Actually, re-reading it again, I think I’ll go with my initial intepretation – to paraphrase: “Whale crap sinks as faecal pellets, but that’s OK, because a lot of it is expressed in liquid form. Which doesn’t. Sink that is. And though iron is bound up tightly in the body, apparently it just goes free and soluble as soon as it hits seawater. But whale crap also floats in a floating/sinking sort of way as per the quote while the remaining faecal material floats or slowly disperses outwards.. Perhaps this is due to Seasonal and spatial heterogeneity of sperm whale diet may change the nutrient composition and buoyancy of defecated waste. Or perhaps not. The paper doesn’t really say. However this boyancy does not apply to squid beaks which definitely sink in a sinking/sinking sort of way.

    If I thought I was confused, then they’re far more confused…

  53. bubbagyro says:

    richard telford says:
    June 16, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    I will have to say this in a non ad hominem manner for you. I probably have thicker skin than most, I am originally from New Jersey, so I apologize.

    The fish and squid they eat are mainly living in the sunlight zone (I use the layman’s term here). The fish and squid eat algae and plankton, then smaller fish and a bit larger and so on. Sort of like a Russian doll? The iron came from the epipelagic sunlight zone the whole time, not from the benthos bottom. To reiterate, I don’t know what expert led you to believe that iron is scarce in the ocean, but it just plumb ain’t!

    Local concentrations of nutrients rarely can become limiting in the oceans, only if there is a temporary local effect preventing the oceans from mixing. This is why we have ocean oscillations, not to just spread heat around, but to mix the water. Also, algae will proliferate where the nutrients abound. As a fisherman once told me when I asked if fishing was good in this spot, he replied, “the fish, they swim around”.

  54. Pieter says:

    Ratio of co2 in air and water is 1/50.
    50 molecules co2 in water only affects 1 molecule in air.
    Some of the figures above should be divided by 50?

  55. Gary Hladik says:

    “Al Gore has announced an adopt-a-whale program whereby celebrities can gain carbon credits for adopting a whale. Rosie O’Donnell has been signed as the spokesmodel for the program…”

    Do I get a two-whale carbon credit if I adopt Rosie O’Donnell?

  56. Gail Combs says:

    Layne Blanchard says:
    June 16, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Fascinating how every pet desire of the left fits so neatly into the warming narrative. Even the fixation on locally grown vegetables get credit because they don’t require shipping to a distant destination. Too bad they’ve shut off the water to the central valley to save the Delta Smelt. We’ll have to settle for the e-coli crop from Mexico instead.
    _______________________________________________________________
    Do not worry Layne, according to a trucker friend they will rebox that Mexican e-coli crop in boxes labeled “product of California” so the Californians can feel morally superior as the sit on the john with a belly full of cramps.

  57. richard telford says:

    bubbagyro

    Large parts of the oceans are nutrient limited. The gyres, remote from nutrient supplies from upwelling zones or the coast, have low levels of photosynthetic activity.

    You almost get the iron limitation problem. You are correct in that it is nothing to do with benthic supplies of iron. Iron taken up by algae then moves through the food chain. This much you understand. But there is more: at each stage a portion is exported from the photic zone for example in sinking faecal pellets or dead algae or animals. This nutrient export depletes the pool of nutrients in the photic zone. Unless they are replaced by mixing or other sources there will be nutrient limitations.

    The iron limitation in the southern ocean is well established and has a copious literature. It is easy to demonstrate: adding dissolved iron causes algal blooms.

  58. Roger Knights says:

    bubbagyro says:
    June 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    The fish and squid they eat are mainly living in the sunlight zone (I use the layman’s term here). The fish and squid eat algae and plankton, then smaller fish and a bit larger and so on. Sort of like a Russian doll? The iron came from the sunlight zone the whole time, not from the bottom.

    I think what Telford and the study authors are implying is that when those fish and squid die, they sink; or if their remains float they are eaten by something that also sinks eventually (a shark?); but OTOH if a whale eats them it excretes them in a form that floats and is liquid and is thereby easily digestible by algae.

  59. Mike McMillan says:

    When I saw this, I just knew it would show up here. Your govt tax dollars at work. Maybe it soaks up oil spills. Did they consider the methane?

    Can’t we raise the level and talk about Laurie David or something? ;-)

  60. RockyRoad says:

    Did they notice that these CO2-saving whales were literally SWIMMING in the liquid form of “the most common greenhouse gas”?

    I thought not.

  61. rbateman says:

    This is perfect for Gore: Whale Anomalies are really Green.
    But, as ususal, there is no effort made at thinking the thing through in it’s cycle. None whatsoever.
    Eventually, those deposits heading for the ocean floor form new seabed strata, which are then uplifted by tectonic forces or consumed in subduction to reappear at your local neighborhood volcanic eruption.
    It gets back into the atmosphere, one way or another.
    Whale poop.
    Really.

  62. martinb says:

    I can see what’s happened here, the research subjects have been mixed up.

    They were obviously researching bulls.

  63. bubbagyro says:

    Roger Knights says:
    June 16, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    I know what Richard is saying. Warm-earthers always say “climate not weather” when it suits them, or the opposite when it suits them.

    You are correct. Instead of splitting hairs, i.e. where the iron is temporarily located (clearly a short-term “weather-type “event), the whale watchers all of a sudden forget the efficient redistribution of elements in the oceans (a longer-term “climate-type”) event when it suits them.

    Whole islands in the oceans are composed of huge hematite and other iron ore deposits which leach into the seas on an ongoing basis. Whales don’t do diddly on the grand scale.

  64. Daniel H says:

    Someone needs to notify Gavin that they’ve finally found the missing sink for his climate models! And considering the enormous volume of crap that his models normally churn out, whale poop modeling should be a cinch.

  65. Alex Buddery says:

    Don’t whales fart?

  66. JER0ME says:

    So carbon cycles, heh? What an amazing revelation! We’re all going to live!

  67. latitude says:

    Let’s see. Bacteria in the ocean can fix nitrogen from the air. Whales add iron.
    That’s it, instant algae.
    Only one problem with that.
    Nitrogen and iron alone can not make algae

    The open oceans are limiting in phosphorus.

    These people really are morons.

    Since I poop a lot, I must be carbon neutral too!

  68. Chris1958 says:

    That’s the Sydney Morning Herald!

  69. John Westman says:

    I just have to ask the question.

    Who paid for this rubbish report?

  70. Rhoda R says:

    Z Says: I should have put a /s after.

  71. RoHa says:

    I. DO. NOT. WANT. TO. KNOW. HOW. THIS. RESEACH. WAS. DONE.

  72. Rhoda R says:

    bubbagyro: That’s one of the reasons why El Ninos are so hard on S American fishermen — deep current change and as a result there is less upwelling of cold, nutrient rich water to feed the fish. Whales don’t upwell much water.

  73. Al Gored says:

    Chris1958 says:
    June 16, 2010 at 7:11 pm
    That’s the Sydney Morning Herald!

    Coincidentally, Australia is leading the charge to ban what whaling still happens (by Japan, Norway, and Iceland).

    But as far as I know – off the top of my head here – nobody hunts sperm whales anymore anyways.

    And coincidentally, they just came up with a new IPPC type idea for biodiversity, so we can expect no end of these kind of stories. With or without the climate change angle.

  74. Al Gored says:

    Oops. Meant ‘IPCC type idea.’ Hope everyone gets the idea. Everything will be peer reviewed, of course.

  75. Patrick Davis says:

    Uuuuugh! Here in Australia we’re being bombarded with stream after stream of alarmist articles and images, especially in the SMH, and their solutions. Australia MSM, both online and in paper form and on TV are in over-drive, it is election year after all. The Australian PM, he’s desperate, his Govn’t policies have failed, large projects have failed, the Labor party want to sensor the internet etc etc. He is Rudderless, floating about in (He hopes) an acid sea hoping the to sink all the asylum seekers before they land of the shores of Australia.

  76. Ric Werme says:

    bubbagyro says:
    June 16, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    The fish and squid they eat are mainly living in the sunlight zone (I use the layman’s term here). The fish and squid eat algae and plankton, then smaller fish and a bit larger and so on. Sort of like a Russian doll? The iron came from the epipelagic sunlight zone the whole time, not from the benthos bottom. To reiterate, I don’t know what expert led you to believe that iron is scarce in the ocean, but it just plumb ain’t!

    I hope I have that attribution right.

    http://www.acsonline.org/factpack/spermwhl.htm says:
    Feeding: Its main source of food is medium-sized deep water squid, but it also feeds on species of fish, skate, octopus, and smaller squid. A sperm whale consumes about one ton (907 kg) of food each day.

    http://www.oceanicresearch.org/education/wonders/spermwhales.htm says:
    Down in the depths, where there is no light, Sperm whales hunt using echolocation.

    They have been tracked by sonar diving to depths of 3,900 feet. However, one Sperm whale caught by a whaling ship in water 10,000 feet deep had a bottom-dwelling shark in its stomach, leading researchers to believe that the Sperm whale can dive a lot deeper than seems possible.

    The Sperm whale probably has one of the most stable populations of any whale on Earth, possibly more than a million. This means that the Sperm whale is the only great whale species which is not endangered.

    It sounds to me as though there is a net upward transport of iron. IIRC, a little iron goes a long way in fertilizing plankton.

    More on iron fertilization – good for food web, not so good at removing CO2.
    http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/03/27/ocean-iron-fertilization-experiment-a-blooming-failure/

  77. Northern Exposure says:

    *sigh*

    This is yet just another example of : ‘how-to-get-research-grant-money-by-using-the-words-climate-and-CO2-together-in-a-sentence’

    What next ?! Maybe next month Anthony will be posting a science paper from some schmucks that studied the sexual behaviours of the one-horned rhino in Nepal and how their frequent extracurricular intercourse activities has an effect on global climate and CO2 sequestration.

    This is where our tax money is going people…

    Oh the humanity !

  78. 3x2 says:

    To think that this paper and others like it will be around for future generations to read. I’m embarrassed already. Justifying Whales by carbon exhaled versus the ‘good’ that comes from the other end. It really is sad that we have come to this.

  79. BillD says:

    latitude says:
    June 16, 2010 at 6:00 pm
    Let’s see. Bacteria in the ocean can fix nitrogen from the air. Whales add iron.
    That’s it, instant algae.
    Only one problem with that.
    Nitrogen and iron alone can not make algae

    The open oceans are limiting in phosphorus.

    These people really are morons.

    latitude:

    Anyone who follows the oceangraphy literature would know that a large number of papers published in the 1990′s and early 2000′s showed that primary production (phytoplankton) in the Southern Ocean is limited by iron, and that N and P are in excess in these waters. This was an important and unexpected discover confirmed by numerous experiments.

    In my view, it’s rather unscientific to criticise a research paper without having read it and understood its basic hypothesis, methods and results. Cetainly there is room for criticism of this paper, but the importance of Fe limitation in certain oceans is well established. Everyone should should know that toothed whales, such as the sperm whale are not plankton feeders but in fact feed on large prey, mainly squid. The squid are captured mainly during deep dives, but as air breathing mammals, sperm whales spend much of their lives near the ocean surface.

  80. d says:

    sounds like the whales are on trial. If an animal puts out too much co2 then it may be found guilty. if found guilty then what. fortunetly for the whale it counteracts some of its emmissions. again i just shows if you link anything (true or false) to global warming you can get research money.

  81. BillD says:

    If the paper implied that whale respiration was a problem, that is indeed silly. I did a Google Scholar search under “Iron limitation and Southern Oceans” and found about 20K hits. I am not an oceanographer, but I did attend Limnology and Oceanography meetings during the 90′s and remember that iron limitation in the Southern Oceans was a hot topic in oceanography back then. It was directly demonstrated by experiments, starting with iron, N and P supplementation experiments in bottles of sea water and later iron additions to the ocean on a scale of square kilometers.

    Interestingly, modeling studies suggested that human additions of iron to the Southern Oceans would not be a feasible way of sequestering enough carbon to have an impact on the global carbon cycle. There is some evidence that the interplay between iron and silica limitation of diatoms might have had an impact on the prehistoric climate, via carbon sequestration in oceans.

    The methods section of this paper indicates that the analysis was based entirely on calculations arising from previously published scientific papers. No grant support is acknowledged, so we can assume that this research was done without financial support from governments or foundations.

  82. latitude says:

    “”BillD says:””

    and when you add iron/rust, what becomes limiting Bill?

  83. BillD says:

    Latitude:

    First, you would need to add soluble iron ion, as in FeCl3. Iron oxide (rust) would not do, nor would iron shavings, which would sink to quickly and would scarsely dissolve. It would not take much Fe+++ addition, to drive the phytoplankton into another limitation, most likely nitrogen limitation.

    Phosphorus is the most commonly limiting element (nutrient) in lakes, but oceans are most commonly nitrogen limited.

    regards,

    BillD

  84. Pat Moffitt says:

    By the mid to late 19th century kerosene (from coal) replaced whale oil in lamps. Electricity production eliminated the need for both whale wax used in candles and the oil for lamps/illumination. Petroleum drilling in the early 20th century replaced the lubricant market for whale oil. Whaling stopped because fossil fuel oil derivatives were cheaper and better alternatives. It wasn’t Greenpeace that saved the whales it was John D Rockerfeller and global warming.

  85. Pat Moffitt says:

    My understanding is that iron alone is insufficient to sequester carbon when silica is limiting (a fact in many parts of the world’s oceans). Diatoms (silica dependent) are needed as the principal bloom component for C sequestration as evidenced by the 2009 LOHAFEX experiment in a silica limited section of the southwest Atlantic. So without silica – iron can increase productivity without a substantial impact on sequestration. Productivity and sequestration are not always related.

  86. BillD says:

    Pat:

    I am in full agreement with your comments. It is also my understanding that diatoms, because of their sinking rates and ingestion by copepods, are the most suitable algae for carbon sequestration. If diatoms were limited by Si, then addition of Fe+++ would likely increase primary production with about much help in getting carbon to the bottom of the ocean or even to the deeper waters. Degredation of algal carbon in the upper layers does not help reduce CO2 in the long term.

  87. Pat Moffitt says:

    Bill D:
    Yes-The importance of diatoms seems to be related to their resistance to zooplankton predation and the ability for the frustules to sink with the carbon into the non-mixed waters. There also seems to be taxon specific C:N:P ratios involved. Nutrient availability also seems to influence diatom size and as a result the sinking rates of inactive cells. We can also see the limiting nutrient change over the course of a bloom and its associated taxon selection pressure. We see nutrient concentrations and limitations change both in time and place in the oceans. The whole system is complex and not well understood. Seemingly more complex than the ability to calculate the CO2 sequestration value of whale excrement.

  88. latitude says:

    “Phosphorus is the most commonly limiting element (nutrient) in lakes, but oceans are most commonly nitrogen limited.
    regards,
    BillD”

    Nope Bill you’re wrong. It fools people because of Redfield’s 16:1. And because when P is in something, it’s almost impossible to find. Couple that with a longer shelf life, the ability to two different types of phytoplankton to prosper when N is and is not limiting, and P’s hidden. Life in the open ocean has evolved to take and hold P, it’s there, it’s just not available. P is limiting.

  89. BillD says:

    Latitude:

    The most common experimental test for nutrient limitation is to incubate sea water in a glass vessel, often 1 liter bottles. One keeps a control and then adds phosphate, nitrate, P+N, iron (as Fe+++) etc., incubates in the light and measures the increase in chlorophyll and/or the rate of photosynthesis. Typically we need 3 or more replicates for each treatment for statistical testing.

    Some marine waters show a response to P, but N is more commonly the limiting nutrient in oceans. In the Southern Oceans, as discussed in papers cited in the paper on which this posting is based, the phytoplankton respond to ferric ion.

    I know that some parts of the ocean and in some seasons P can be the limiting nutrient. However, N limitation seems more common. If you can find a review article that summarizes such studies from the world’s oceans and states that P is usually the nutrient in shortest supply, I would like to read the article.

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