According to some scientists, artificial whale feces could save the planet – Earth – Science and technology

We have known for more than ten years that whale droppings are beneficial to marine life. In 2010, German scientist Victor Smetacek discovered that whale droppings are similar to agricultural fertilizer. Whale droppings are full of iron – a nutrient that is needed for plant growth.

Before Smetack’s discovery, scientists thought that whales were only predators; they eat ten to 20 tons of fish a day, and then they just excrete. But something in this equation didn’t quite suit them. Tens of thousands of whales have been exterminated over the centuries due to commercial hunting. And yet the decline of whales did not automatically mean an increase in the number of fish. On the contrary.

Smetack’s research has shown that whales eat tons of fish, but their feces full of iron support other ocean organisms and thus contribute to the life cycle. Whales feed on fish and release nutrients in their feces, which act as fertilizer. Nutrients support growth and provide food to other organisms on the seabed.

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These organisms include some of the smallest living creatures known as phytoplankton. And if there is a particularly high amount of nutrients in a given area, this life form can explode into a so-called water flower.

The aquatic flower absorbs carbon dioxide – one of the four major greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. After the phytoplankton is fed with carbon dioxide, it releases oxygen in return. Our oceans absorb an incredible 30 percent of the carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere when burning fossil fuels.

But now the international research team would like to see if the 30 percent could be increased. To this end, scientists want to artificially support the growth of phytoplankton through false whale feces and increase the ability of the oceans to absorb carbon by 50 percent.

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The team is led by Professor David King, president of the Center for Climate Remediation at Cambridge University. King says with the help of artificial whale droppings, the oceans could capture up to 20 billion tons of greenhouse gases a year.

In 2020, human activity emitted more than 34 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide – so if the King’s forecasts are correct, the oceans could capture more than half of our annual global greenhouse gas emissions.

King and his team want to begin research off the southwest coast of India in April. Their fake whale droppings will contain nitrates, phosphates, silicates and iron – much like real whale feces. Scientists use natural materials such as volcanic ash or desert sand to make it; both have been found to help grow phytoplankton.

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Scientists want to send artificial dung to the seabed with the help of some kind of rice husks, which are a waste product and can be obtained from a factory in the Indian state of Góa. In the initial phase of the experiment, the researchers will find out if their idea, using rice husks as a fecal carrier, works.

Once these tests are completed, they would like to conduct further experiments in many of the world’s oceans. But David King says they have no plans to release a pile of chemicals into the ocean. Research into artificial fertilization in agriculture serves as a lesson for them.

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“Most of our farmland is rainless, which is ridiculous,” King said. “Earthworms do all the plowing for us in a very gentle way.” Experiments show how earthworms help soak water into the soil in a way that is beneficial to plant growth. On soil fertilized with artificial substances that kill earthworms, but studies have shown that water does not stay in the soil and crops tend to die. “We don’t want similar problems in the oceans,” King added.


Source: Pravda – Veda a technika by vat.pravda.sk.

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