A Bryde’s whale surrounded by sardines off Baja California. Bryde’s whales were increasingly targeted by commercial whalers during the 20th century, after other species were hunted nearly to extinction. Today, there is growing recognition that whales provide far greater ecological—and economic—bounty when left in the ocean. Whales sequester carbon and boost marine productivity via a surprising source: fecal plumes. Whale feces, it turns out, jumpstart marine food chains by stimulating the production of phytoplankton. See the article on page 6 for more on the vital role of whales in ecosystem functioning.
Photograph by Doug Perrine/Minden Pictures.