The second largest whale in the world slows the build-up of CO2 in the sea

From EurekAlert!

Public Release: 19-Dec-2018

The second largest whale in the world slows the build-up of CO2 in the sea

The rise in the population of these animals off the coast of Catalonia has been studied in a research project led by the EDMAKTUB Association, in which the University of Extremadura is a participant

University of Extremadura

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This team of experts has been able to observe how the fin whale or common rorqual (Balaenoptera physalus), the largest cetacean in the world after the blue whale, has increased its population on the Catalonian coast over recent years. Credit EDMAKTUB Association

Climate change has also brought important transformations to the animal world. This has been made clear by studies carried out since 2011 by the EDMAKTUB Association (an NGO), on which the UEx professor Daniel Patón has collaborated.

This team of experts has been able to observe how the fin whale or common rorqual (Balaenoptera physalus), the largest cetacean in the world after the blue whale, has increased its population on the Catalonian coast over recent years.

Indeed, according to the annual sightings report compiled by EDMAKTUB, in 2017 alone over 300 whales were spotted, if we add together those recorded by the scientific team (102 animals) and the notifications by the network of fishermen and mariners collaborating in the project (a total of 155 reports with over 200 whales observed). This increase is principally because they have found in these waters a major concentration of food. Further, by using drones it has been possible to see how they filter-feed, swallowing the mass of copepods and expelling the water like a colander or sieve.

In fact, and from the perspective of a scientist, Professor Daniel Patón, of the Department of Plant Biology, Ecology and Earth Sciences at the UEx, explains that the rise in temperature and radiation is making the levels of chlorophyll in the seas go up.

“This, combined with the nutrients brought by the rivers and agricultural phosphates, is prompting an increase in the phytoplankton, and therefore of the zooplankton (krill and marine copepods), which is the principal source of food of this cetacean and is what makes them concentrate in these zones”, according to Patón.

Specifically, the conclusions point to this increase in zooplankton as the cause of the rise in the whale populations, and these “are the great carbon sinks of the seas”. In other words, according to this UEx professor, the whales are helping us to reverse the damage of global warming.

UEx contribution

For this marine biology investigation, the major contribution of the University of Extremadura has been the development of a geographical information system using a large neural network. “This is a computer model which allows the different variables which we have seen exert an influence, such as the chlorophyll, temperature, salinity and bathymetry, to be collated. These data let us understand and learn why one of the largest animals on the planet behaves in a specific way”. Bringing all these variables together, it is possible to discover the whale behaviour and plot maps of the western Mediterranean. For this project, the researchers have used open-source software tools (R and QGIS) running in Linux environments.

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Reference:

Eduard Degollada, Beatriu Tort, Natalia Amigó, Cristina Martín, Daniel Patón. “A GIS Variability Model of Distribution of Fin Whales (Balaenoptera physalus L.) in Catalonian Coasts (NE Spain)”. (2019) Cetaceans: Evolution, Behavior and Conservation. Nova Science Publishers, NY, USA. ISBN: 978-1-53614-998-2

 

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67 thoughts on “The second largest whale in the world slows the build-up of CO2 in the sea

  1. That more CO2 will make phyto plankton more numerous was only doubted by those who take it as a religious principle that CO2 can never do anything good.

    • the whales only serve the phytoplankton by nourishing them with CO2 rich poop! It’s the plankton that are running the show…stepping up to control the atmosphere and keep this place on an even keel.BTW what are the whales doing with all the plastic the must also be swallowing….is it getting stuck in their “selves”?

    • Mark W

      Wrong as usual, i am sure whales fart as well, at least i think so, that must surely add to the problem, if the plankton die and fall to the bottom that would be sequestration, but eating them and turning them into whale farts would have the opposite effect. i think we need a study done.

      Sarc off now.

  2. More food, an environment that is more favorable to increasing plant and animal life. Something must be done to reverse this damage.

  3. Who knew??? Filter feeders sieve out CO2!
    Everyone remain clam – the bivalves, corals, and fin whales have Climate Change under control!

    • I wonder if there has been any change in predator behavior that could account for population growth?

      What kills giant whales? Has that changed at all? Hmm, stumped me.

          • Not without enough food – although the population growth rate may be influenced by the sheer size of the animals. It is very possible that the number of rabbits for instance (assuming no predation) can see an annual increase very much greater than elephants or whales.
            And yes, I recognize the sarcastic element in your comment.

          • I suspect it’s very true that there is more plankton from more CO2. More krill would confirm that hypothesis.

            But that doesn’t tell us whether it is an increase on top of a pre-existing surplus where whale population was limited by predation rather than food supply, or if it is a case where whale population had been limited by food supply and is growing due greater food supply. My guess would be that lower predation is a significant factor and probably the bigger factor.

            A slowly reproducing population would recover quite slowly. The moratorium on commercial whaling (still not honored universally today) was not until 1986. The idea that whaling ended 50 years ago is clearly not correct, but certainly human pressure on the population is much lower than it once was.

  4. How could anyone believe anything in this paper when it so well mixed with beliefs that one could not filter out any truths.

  5. The professor forgot to make the claim that climate change would eventually cause this to reach a tipping point, after which the whales would die-off and become less-effective as a carbon sink.

  6. But..
    would not more CO2 be sequestered if the zooplankton were to sink to the sea bottom.without passing through a whale?
    And those big flukes agitating the water encourage CO2 out gassings..
    Therefor Whales cause global Warmings.
    .Nuke the Whales.
    Did I miss New Years?.Is it April 1 already?

  7. Something change in nature that you can’t explain and need an answer for without wasting time on actual research? Climate change is your ticket. Not only will it be acceptable but lucrative as well.

  8. The title says

    The second largest whale in the world slows the build-up of CO2 in the sea

    And then towards the end of the news release, it says:

    Specifically, the conclusions point to this increase in zooplankton as the cause of the rise in the whale populations, and these “are the great carbon sinks of the seas”. In other words, according to this UEx professor, the whales are helping us to reverse the damage of global warming

    which seems to be saying the exact opposite of the title. It does make you wonder if the author of the news release (a) actually communicates with the authors of the paper or (b) understands what they themselves have written.

    • Zooplankton are the sink. This is what happens with journalism by Chinese whispers. The “author” is probably three degrees removed from the Spanish researchers at the University of Extremadura.

  9. OH COMMON! Whales “are the great carbon sinks of the seas”. “Humans are the great carbon sinks of the land”, there said it, where is my Grant!?!?!? What about corral reefs?

    “Save the White Cliffs of Dover”…send money now!

  10. Isn’t wonderful a few Leftist scientists actually admit the irrefutable evidence that higher CO2 levels increase global greening on land, and increase phytoplankton concentrations in the oceans, which are both very beneficial to all life on earth?

    I guess CO2 is so beneficial it’s somehow catastrophic…

    Leftists have a mental disorder..

  11. If the whales are grazing on phytoplankton which has already sequestered CO2, how can they possibly increase the quantity of sequestered CO2? They probably increase the tempo of return of CO2 to the atmosphere by digesting the plankton and breathing out CO2. Not to mention the extra methane they fart out.

    The university could be renamed to Extreme-adura.

  12. Specifically, the conclusions point to this increase in zooplankton as the cause of the rise in the whale populations, and these “are the great carbon sinks of the seas”.

    Well I’m speechless.
    Except for….where do I get myself one of these sciencey degree thingys so I can say stuff like this too??

    • Buy Cracker Jacks®, Mike.

      There’s a sciencey degree in every box. (And a little plastic ring or magnifier, but who needs those?)

    • “Well I’m speechless.
      Except for….where do I get myself one of these sciencey degree thingys so I can say stuff like this too??”

      Not only can you say stuff like that, you can get paid to say stuff like that if you mention climate change.

  13. the rise in temperature and radiation is making the levels of chlorophyll in the seas go up.

    Where did those two things come from?

  14. Many years ago, I read that much of the world’s oxygen was from tiny diatoms in the ocean. If that is true, and the oceans are receiving CO2 and fertilizer runoff, it seems reasonable that would be beneficial to such diatoms, which would multiply and consume that CO2. I would also estimate that such diatoms would greatly outmass the small number of whales. Is that foolishness or is it worthy of a study?

    • Good one, Deloss. They just mentioned the contribution of the fertilizer runoff to the phytoplankton in passing, minimizing its effect. Meanwhile, here in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, there is a large effort to eliminate fertilizers in runoff to the bay, so it must have an impact, right?

    • So before we started killing the whales by the millions we were lucky to have millions of american buffalo.

  15. From the article: “In fact, and from the perspective of a scientist, Professor Daniel Patón, of the Department of Plant Biology, Ecology and Earth Sciences at the UEx, explains that the rise in temperature and radiation is making the levels of chlorophyll in the seas go up.”

    What rise in temperature? The temperatues have been falling for the last two years. How does that figure into the calculation?

    And radiation? We need a little more detail, please.

    What is really increasing the food supply of the whales is the extra CO2 in the atmosphere that is causing growth in the food supply, not a tenth of a degree or two of increased temperatures.

  16. From the article: “In other words, according to this UEx professor, the whales are helping us to reverse the damage of global warming.”

    What damage? The authors are assuming things not in evidence. That’s not the way to carry out a scientific study.

  17. The CO2 Satanic Meme virus strikes again at an otherwise interesting bit of research.
    This virus is having a profound and debilitating effect on the body scientific.

  18. I thought the great carbon sinks of the oceans were the plastic soup? But, seriously, in what way the whales are the great carbon sinks of the ocean?

  19. In fact, and from the perspective of a scientist, Professor Daniel Patón, of the Department of Plant Biology, Ecology and Earth Sciences at the UEx, explains that the rise in temperature and radiation is making the levels of chlorophyll in the seas go up.

    “This, combined with the nutrients brought by the rivers and agricultural phosphates, is prompting an increase in the phytoplankton, and therefore of the zooplankton (krill and marine copepods), which is the principal source of food of this cetacean and is what makes them concentrate in these zones”, according to Patón.

    In fact, the perspective of the scientist Patón is that if he says anything suggesting a positive and non-catastrophic role of CO2, his job will be in danger.

    What the he11 is the “radiation” he is talking about. Death-rays from CO2, assumes.

  20. “it has been possible to see how they filter-feed, swallowing the mass of copepods and expelling the water like a colander or sieve.”

    And the point of this statement is?

    ““This, combined with the nutrients brought by the rivers and agricultural phosphates, is prompting an increase in the phytoplankton, and therefore of the zooplankton (krill and marine copepods), which is the principal source of food of this cetacean and is what makes them concentrate in these zones”

    Meaning that the “Balaenoptera physalus”, the second largest cetacean in the world, lives and thrives in estuarine environments where runoff predominates?
    Nope! Just more word fluff added to skew reader emotions. Balaenoptera physalus are still primarily blue water dwelling mammals, even off the coast of Barcelona, Tarragona and Marseille.

    “specifically, the conclusions point to this increase in zooplankton as the cause of the rise in the whale populations, and these “are the great carbon sinks of the seas”. In other words, according to this UEx professor, the whales are helping us to reverse the damage of global warming.”

    More fluff and nutter.

    According to this UEx professor, whales are better carbon sinks than schools of fish or massive schools of zooplankton?
    Or whales are better carbon sinks than the zooplankton sinking to the ocean floor after expiring? Maybe this professor needs to visit Dover’s white cliffs, though I am certain that closer examples can be found near the Catalonia coast.

    “This is a computer model which allows the different variables which we have seen exert an influence, such as the chlorophyll, temperature, salinity and bathymetry, to be collated.”

    Oh!
    This was actually an excuse to play with technology, enjoy residing on Catalonia beaches, do some bluewater cruising and play self satisfaction games with one’s programmed computer…

    All to tell us Balaenoptera physalus whales consume zooplankton… And they get paid for the alleged research.

  21. Catalonia’s Köppen climate classification Csa. Still Csa. It hasn’t changed. Catalonia HAS NOT HAD CLIMATE CHANGE.

    • I like it. Whether or not the Koppen classification has changed should be the definitive test for climate change.

  22. I am glad for the Spanish that the Finn whales have found their way there but this only means that there are less Finn whales in the areas where they came from. Furthermore, what is an increase if you have no basis for comparison? And the CO2 exhaled by the whales does not dissolve in the ocean? But most of all,, the increase in whale populations is the result of the international ban on commercial whaling and maybe now the whale generation with vivid memory of the whaling era is dying and the younger generations are not so averse to human proximity, after all whales are considered to be smart animals..

  23. Re: ” . . . the conclusions point to this increase in zooplankton as the cause of the rise in the whale populations, and these ‘are the great carbon sinks of the seas’. ” Someone has got this round the wrong way. It is the PLANKTON – not the ef-Finn whales that are the great carbon sinks of the seas.

    • You must go back a long way then. Please cite an example of a reasonable article published by EurekAlert!

      Certainly you won’t find anything climate related.

      The American Association for the Advancement of Science has been making an AAAS of themselves for a long time.

    • When we are no longer allowed to use fossil fuels, we can go back to whaling. We will need something to light those lamps!

  24. In fact, and from the perspective of a scientist, Professor Daniel Patón, of the Department of Plant Biology, Ecology and Earth Sciences at the UEx, explains that the rise in temperature and radiation is making the levels of chlorophyll in the seas go up.

    Has this been published? I am aware of a few studies of increased marine growth in response to increased CO2, but not a general statement about “levels of chlorophyll”. How much do we want to generalize from the Coast of Catalonia?

    • It stands to reason that if recent increases in atmospheric CO2 has resulted in world-wide tree canopy increases the size of Alaska plus Texas, there will be a similar increase in marine life. The oceans cover more than 70% of the earths surface and CO2 is the feed-stock for carbon-based life.

  25. Looking at the obverse, the huge decline of cachalots due to commercial whaling in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries must have led to an exponential growth in zooplankton with a corresponding decline in phytoplankton. Perhaps a biomass scientist could crunch the numbers as to what effect this may have had on atmospheric CO2

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