Resulted from a friendly chat in a pub from Tasmania, Australia, the idea that whale poo could have anything to do with reducing global warming and sequestering carbon dioxide caught up the attention of many scientists and the media.
The Australian Antarctic Division performed a research in this area, and found out that the whale poo is very rich in iron – about some 10 million times richer than sea water, as Steve Nicol, one of the scientists, said: “The plants love it and it actually becomes a way of taking carbon out of the atmosphere.”
The iron ends up being absorbed by surface algae, but a large amount goes into deep waters. The krill eat the algae, and the whales eat the krill, closing the iron’s circuit. The whale poo is thus kept in surface waters, where it’s needed most, to feed more algae. “The system operates at a high level when you have this interaction between the krill, the whales and the algae and they maintain the system at a very high level of production. So it’s a self sustaining system,” says Nicol.
An overall conclusion of this would be that by increasing the number of whales and krill would boost the productivity of the whole Southern Ocean ecosystem and improve the absorption of carbon dioxide. Of course, this should be done with respect to the natural limits of the ecosystem, since disturbing it would do more damage than good.