Jean-Christophe André

Save the whales, because the whales can save us.

A team of economists at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) waned to drive home how important whales are, so they put it in terms we could understand: money. A new analysis detailed in Finance & Development puts a price tag on exactly how much whales are worth to us, and why we should care about the world's whale population.

Whales absorb large amounts of carbon in their bodies. During the lifetime of the average whale, which is 60 years, it will sequester 33 tons of CO2. In comparison, a tree absorbs up to 48 pounds of CO2 each year. Whales also promote the growth of phytoplankton. Phytoplankton captures 40% of the world's CO2 and contributes at least 50% of oxygen to the atmosphere. "At a minimum, even a one percent increase in phytoplankton productivity thanks to whale activity would capture hundreds of millions of tons of additional CO2 a year, equivalent to the sudden appearance of two billion mature trees," the study says.

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