In the Gulf of Maine, for example, the whale poop adds up to about 23,000 metric tons of nitrogen annually — more than the input of all the rivers combined, according biologists Joe Roman and James McCarthy who recently published a paper describing how whales bring nutrient from the deep waters where they feed back to the surface.
It is well known that microbes, plankton, and fish recycle nutrients in ocean waters, but whales and other marine mammals have largely been ignored in this cycle. The new study shows that whales historically played a central role in the productivity of ocean ecosystems — and continue to do so despite diminished populations. (more…)
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