Global warming is causing whale populations to explode and their migration range to expand, according to scientists.
An enormous number of gray whales just turned up in Alaska, according to a Friday report in the Juneau Empire. Another huge group of orca and humpback whales arrived in northern Scotland the same day.
Global warming makes it easier for whales around the world to find food, according to a report earlier this week by National Geographic.
There are now so many humpback whales around Antarctica that “we couldn’t count them fast enough,” Ari Friedlaender, an ecologist with Oregon State University, told National Geographic.
A study authored by Friedlaender found that global warming is making the oceans more productive. More productive oceans mean more and earlier blooms of microscopic plant plankton, causing larger populations of copepods and krill that humpback and bowhead whales eat.
Global warming is also expanding the habitat’s of whales by creating more open water. Humpback wales can now stay in their feeding ground until much later in the year and can follow krill more easily. The whales may even be breeding in their Antarctica feeding grounds.
The population of humpback whales has been recovering since 1966, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The humpback whale population has steadily grown off the coast of British Columbia at a rate of about 7 percent annually and is now estimated at more than 21,000 animals.
“We are just beginning to paint the picture of how quickly and well the humpback whales are able to use this habitat that was probably not available to them in the recent past,” Friedlaender continued.
The population of bowhead whales is also spiking dramatically thanks in part to global warming. Scientists estimate that the populations of both the bowhead and humpback whales could hit historic highs over the next few decades.
Spiking whale populations are great news for the rest of the ocean, as whales help recycle and redistribute nutrients through the food-chain.
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