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Whale Poop Acts as a Natural ‘Nutrient Pump’ for Enriching Rainforests, Study Finds

Whale poop can act as a nutrient pump for rainforests | Image credit: Twitter

Whale poop can act as a nutrient pump for rainforests | Image credit: Twitter

Researchers found that the poop of whales in water acts as nutrients for the planktons. These microscopic organisms then become food for smaller fishes.

Highlighting the importance of animals like whales in maintaining the ecological systems, a new piece has been published by the researchers at London’s Natural History Museum which highlights the importance of whale faeces in the ecology.

Head of Life Sciences at the Museum, Ken Norris along with his colleagues has published this piece which says that there is a need to conserve the ecological system that involves some of the fundamental things done by animals, reported Sci Tech Daily.

The author of the opinion piece, Ken said that we have not realised so far how large animals, such as whales and elephants, are important to the Earth’s large scale processes. Interestingly, the poop of whales in the water acts as nutrients for the planktons. These microscopic organisms then become food for smaller fishes.

These organisms are then eaten by seabirds which deposit their own poop on land or may feed larger migratory birds. The nutrients from this system also reach in rainforest and land if the animals that contain them are eaten by predators from the land, such as birds or cats. These ocean nutrients are important for massive biomes like the Amazon.

According to Ken, previous research on the topic has found that because of the loss of larger animals, there has been a massive impact on the ‘nutrient pumps’ that operate in larger environments and they may have declined by over 80 percent.

Not just whales, the day-to-day activities of animals like elephants help others in maintaining earth processes.

The opinion piece urges conservationists to think globally. Ken said that the current conservation plans are still not up to the mark as we need to think about the scale of these nutrient cycles. Although trying to cover larger areas may seem like a challenge, massive scale conservation missions have previously happened as well.

As per the researcher of the museum, the impacts of not doing anything about the changes that are happening in the ecological system can be severe as these larger animals are acting as nutrient pumps.

Stressing on the importance of working on the conservation of larger systems, Ken said, “We need to be looking at ecosystems such as the Amazon which are millions of square kilometers.”

So far, conservation movements have concentrated on smaller scales. For instance, wolves have been reintroduced in an initiative in the northwest US and the west of Canada called Y2Y. But as per Ken, the scale is small and conservationists need to think bigger.

The opinion piece published in the Trends in Ecology and Evolution also has contributions from Andrew Terry, James P. Hansford, and Samuel T. Turvey.


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