A Whale's Journey Through Climate Change
Hidden behind the dense curtain of the ocean water and singing an eerie song of their own, whales are the gentle giants of the deepest depths. Whales are built similarly to the Hippopotamus and are warm-blooded with a layer of blubber to help insulate and moderate body temperature. Large flippers allow them to navigate the ocean currents, and their blowholes on the top of their head allow a quick breath before diving again. Some whales can hold their breath for up to 90 minutes. Though not as agile as dolphins or seals, whales can travel up to 20 knots, which is about 23 miles per hour.
How does climate affect whales?
Despite their strength and size, whales cannot muscle through the dangers of climate change. Global warming has influenced the rise in sea levels, loss of icy polar habitats, decline in food sources, acidification, and freshening of seawater.
Ocean temperature regulates whale migratory patterns and their blubber creation. With the warming temperatures, whales are changing their migratory patterns based on water temperatures, staying longer in some habitats and never making it to their other habitats. This is also concerning for the ecosystems that rely on whale migratory patterns while new areas are often unprepared to support the eating needs of whales. Meanwhile, their main food sources, krill, are likely to become depleted due to the rise in UV radiation and the loss of the ozone layer.
Warmer water temperatures also fail to notify whales of their need to store layers of fat to keep them warm in cooler temperatures. Without the right temperature signals, whales won’t eat enough to build up enough layers of blubber. Their bodies will be unprepared for cold temperatures, causing the heart to pump faster to try to circulate blood to make up for the lack of warmth.
Another component that puts whales at risk is the time that it takes to reach maturity. As a whole, whales mature later than most other creatures. This means that whales don’t tend to have offspring until they are between the ages of 7 and 10. Females only have one calf every 2-4 years, and females won’t mate unless there’s an adequate food supply. To sustain a newborn calf, females need to be able to eat plenty to produce gallons of milk every day for their baby.
Calves are able to start eating on their own around their first birthday, and their main food group tends to be very small fish. Heating temperatures have made the environment unsuitable for certain creatures. Without enough to eat, calves may not be able to reach maturity.
Meanwhile, whales provide an important component to the health of our environment with something called ocean carbon absorption. With the dwindling number of whales, greenhouse gases could increase. Whales help in carbon absorption with their migratory patterns and swimming habits, specifically diving deep which causes a nutrient transfer from shallow to deep, and with their fecal plumes, basically creating an ecosystem for marine plants in the surrounding area which absorbs carbon during photosynthesis.
All in all, it’s hard to know how climate change will affect the ocean since the many ecosystems are interlinked. A breakdown in one ecosystem could cripple all.
Scientists wonder if whales will be able to adapt to the rapidly changing environment. While research shows that whales are highly adaptable, will whales have enough time to adapt when they require so much food and time to reach maturity?
To help protect our world, it’s time to make different decisions. Consumers can do this by purchasing environmentally-friendly products while companies can choose resources and packaging that prioritizes materials that are biodegradable.
At Golden Arrow, we are supporting the whales and their ecosystem by creating a packaging option that is green from start to finish. We believe in walking the walk, not just talking the talk. Explore our green and environmentally friendly packaging options by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.