How Whales Change Climate

When whales were at their historic populations, before their numbers were reduced, it seems that whales might have been responsible for removing tens of millions of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere every year. Whales change the climate. The return of the great whales, if they are allowed to recover, could be seen as a benign form of geo-engineering. It could undo some of the damage we have done, both to the living systems of the sea, and to the atmosphere.


Promote This Video
Producer (s)
More information

Official Sources:

Stephen Nicol et al, 2010. Southern Ocean iron fertilization by baleen whales and Antarctic krill. Fish and Fisheries, vol 11, pp 203–209.

Kakani Katija and John O. Dabiri, 2009. A viscosity-enhanced mechanism for biogenic ocean mixing. Nature, Vol. 460, pp 624-627. doi:10.1038/nature08207

Joe Roman and James J. McCarthy, 2010) The Whale Pump: Marine Mammals Enhance Primary Productivity in a Coastal Basin. PLoS ONE vol 5 no 10, pp 1-8. doi:10.1371/ journal.pone.0013255

Daniel G. Boyce, Marlon R. Lewis and Boris Worm, 2010. Global phytoplankton decline over the past century. Nature, Vol. 466, pp591-596. doi:10.1038/nature09268

Steve Nichol, 12th July 2011. Vital Giants: why living seas need whales. New Scientist, No.2820.

Trish J. Lavery et al, 2010. Iron defecation by sperm whales stimulates carbon export in the Southern Ocean. Proceedings of the Royal Society: B. Vol 277, pp 3527-3531. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0863

James A. Estes, et al, 2011. Trophic Downgrading of Planet Earth. Science, Vol 333, pp 301-306. doi: 10.1126/science.1205106


Mother Jones:  The Incredible Thing About Whale Poop Is That It Fights Climate Change  Could Whale Poop Help Fight Global Warming?

Wired: The Hidden Power of Whale Poop

New Scientist:  Whale poop is vital to ocean's carbon cycle

Scientific Journals:

Ecological Society of America:  Whales As Marine Ecosystem Engineers

Joe Roman, James A Estes, Lyne Morissette, Craig Smith, Daniel Costa, James McCarthy, JB Nation, Stephen Nicol, Andrew Pershing, and Victor Smetacek 2014. Whales as marine ecosystem engineers. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 12: 377–385.

The Royal Society: Iron defecation by sperm whales stimulates carbon export in the Southern Ocean Trish J. Lavery, Ben Roudnew, Peter Gill, Justin Seymour, Laurent Seuront, Genevieve Johnson, James G. Mitchell, VictorSmetacek DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2010.0863Published 11 October 2010

Plos:  The Impact of Whaling on the Ocean Carbon Cycle: Why Bigger Was Better

Andrew J. Pershing mail, Line B. Christensen, Nicholas R. Record, Graham D. Sherwood, Peter B. Stetson Published: August 26, 2010 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.001244

Comments / Discussion

How Do You Want To Change Our Story?