Join 3,494 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Craptastic Cetaceans
July 9, 2014 6:06 AM   Subscribe

The whales are back and they'll poop us all to safety! Not ambergis, actual poop. Also carcasses, which support whole ecologies (pdf) Rates of recovery actually vary, though several populations have made good progress.
posted by Segundus (24 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Today's lesson: Don't poop where you eat, unless your food also eats your poo, in which case doing so means more food.
posted by resurrexit at 6:26 AM on July 9


Turns out, carbon capture technology isn't just a pipe dream: it already exists, and works! It's called "phytoplankton, krill, and whales", and it's free.
posted by wormwood23 at 6:33 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


Do whales emit methane ie. whale farts?
posted by stbalbach at 6:48 AM on July 9


Do whales emit methane ie. whale farts?

I get that this is a totally important climatological question but also OMG [makes big upward hand gesture] "BLBLBLBLOOOOP!" [giggles helplessly]

posted by nebulawindphone at 6:50 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


When I woke up this morning, I did not dare to dream that I would be looking at pictures of defecating sperm whales. Thanks, internet! I can cross that off my list!

Also, thank you whales for your helpful poo.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:51 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]


Serious question: if this works with whale poop, would it not work with appropriately treated human sewage? All the phytoplankton are looking for are iron, phosphorous, and nitrogen, right?
posted by Aizkolari at 6:55 AM on July 9


I like whales and wish we hadn't hunted several species to near extinction. "may be the enablers of massive carbon sinks via their prodigious production of faeces." is, well, whaleshit. Shit gets recycled.

"In death, whale carcasses store a remarkable amount of carbon..." First of all, not if something eats it, which happens. Second of all "Global carbon emissions set to reach record 36 billion tons in 2013"

This is woo of the worst sort because the reason to not kill all the whales is so that there are whales, not because their corpses sequester carbon in any appreciable amount. A big tree sequesters more carbon than a whale. A freaking house sequesters more carbon than a whale.
posted by vapidave at 7:00 AM on July 9 [4 favorites]


Whales can save us? That's great! All we need to do is make sure not to overfish the oceans so that the carnivorous cetaceans have food and um guys I think I see the flaw in this plan
posted by mightygodking at 7:02 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


All we need to do is make sure not to overfish the oceans so that the carnivorous cetaceans have food and um guys I think I see the flaw in this plan

....Did you....READ the article? It discusses the baleen-bearing whales, which eat krill.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:08 AM on July 9


That star trek movie is tarting to make sense...
posted by thegirlwiththehat at 7:14 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


A big tree sequesters more carbon than a whale. A freaking house sequesters more carbon than a whale.

I think the point of the article is that whales have a multiplier effect when it comes to carbon sequestration.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:19 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


"I think the point of the article is that whales have a multiplier effect when it comes to carbon sequestration."

That point is incorrect.
posted by vapidave at 8:28 AM on July 9


If we can use this idea to reduce whaling, then I am happy to use it as another tool to use in the fight to save the great whales even if it may be somewhat misleading.
posted by blurker at 8:55 AM on July 9


> ... isn't just a pipe dream: it already exists, and works! It's called "phytoplankton, krill, and whales", and it's free.

You don't understand capitalism. If it's free, it's worthless.

I'm being sarcastic, but less than you might think.
posted by benito.strauss at 10:21 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


"If we can use this idea to reduce whaling, then I am happy to use it as another tool to use in the fight to save the great whales even if it may be somewhat misleading."

I, um, politely disagree. Biodiversity stands on its own with its own merits. "Why whale poo could be the secret to reversing the effects of climate change." is utter nonsense and indicates a course of action that might temporarily help whales but is easily proven absurd with regards to climate change. The math isn't there. The association of the two ideas makes each seem absurd thereby giving the opponents of reduction of carbon emmisions and proponents of whaling reasonable grounds for refutation.
posted by vapidave at 11:46 AM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Biodiversity stands on its own with its own merits.

As someone who agrees with you, I'm unfortunately afraid you may be overestimating the number of people in the world who would agree with the statements "1) biodiversity is an intrinsic good 2) to which economic considerations are inapplicable".
posted by junco at 1:08 PM on July 9 [1 favorite]


Serious question: if this works with whale poop, would it not work with appropriately treated human sewage? All the phytoplankton are looking for are iron, phosphorous, and nitrogen, right?

Somebody who knows what they're talking about, please speak to this question.

My guess, based on the fact that untreated sewage dumped into the ocean causes toxic plankton blooms, is no.

--Unless treating it makes a significant difference, and perhaps if it could be spread out over a large area rather than being dumped immediately offshore. So, big tankers that look like a "shit kicker" hauling poop out and spreading it?
posted by BlueHorse at 3:33 PM on July 9


That point is incorrect.

Care to elaborate, or are you content with calling me stupid? Do you have any idea how "having a discussion" works? God, MetaFilter is so bloody annoying sometimes. "The facts are self-evident, and if you do not agree you are an idiot."
posted by KokuRyu at 3:34 PM on July 9


I, um, politely disagree

There is nothing polite about sniffy, snide comments my friend.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:35 PM on July 9


I get the self-righteous, Dr. Suzuki act, "you can't assign a value to biodiversity", but come on... it's a discussion about whale poo for FFS.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:36 PM on July 9


This is kind of wonderful. It's like trees in the rainforest where all the important nutrients are in the trees and not in the ground, except in this case the nutrient is iron and it's in the plankton, krill and the whales. Life perpetuates its own ideal environment. That is, any environment with enough sunlight and water will evolve toward maximum abundance.


Serious question: if this works with whale poop, would it not work with appropriately treated human sewage? All the phytoplankton are looking for are iron, phosphorous, and nitrogen, right?

It probably wouldn't work as well. The whale poop is incredibly rich in iron, because the whales have evolved in concert with the plankton for millions of years. It's like a finely tuned engine. The whales have evolved to poop out what the plankton most need, in a form that's easy for them to absorb. Landlubber poop just wouldn't be as useful. And in addition, the whales distribute the iron all over the seas, at depths just under the surface where it may be taken up by currents.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:17 PM on July 9


In addition to what Kevin Street said above - essentially that poop decomposes and is reused by other oganisms and assuming huge whales made entirely of carbon - an extremely generous two hundred tons per whale - 180 million whales would have to die, and not decompose per year to offset the annual release of carbon. The most generous estimates are that there are less than 400,000 whales. So each whale would have to die and not decompose 450 times each year. Whales decompose though, as does their poo. The sea floor isn't littered with whale carcasses or whale poop.

It's a cycle. Carbon doesn't go away when a whale eats.
posted by vapidave at 4:49 PM on July 9


But think of how much CO2 plankton absorb! It may not be enough to save us, but all that carbon entering the ecosystem through plankton growth, then being perpetually recycled through increased tonnage of the sea creatures that eat plankton is nothing to sneeze at. In fact, it's how we got all that oil and coal that causes climate change in the first place. (Although granted, over hundreds of millions of years.)
posted by Kevin Street at 4:59 PM on July 9


"Although granted, over hundreds of millions of years."

That was my thought as well. Yay plankton - although some are animals - can sequester carbon but at rate that is massively overmatched by our current rate of release.

I'm sorry KokuRyu took this personally. This article reappears in some form every couple of years and is yet another example of bad science jouralism, which is counterproductive. That is what pisses me off about this.
posted by vapidave at 7:55 PM on July 10 [1 favorite]


« Older Trekkie Feminist....  |  There are numerous ways that b... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments