The carbon cycle is the key process by which carbon is exhaled among the atmosphere of Earth and is vital to sustaining life along with the nitrogen and water cycle, too. Human activities over the past two centuries have significantly increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere, mainly in the form of carbon dioxide, both by modifying ecosystems’ ability to extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and by emitting it directly through the burning of fossil fuels. One way this is reduced is through whales, these deep-sea giants facilitate carbon absorption through their movements — especially when diving — they tend to push nutrients from the bottom of the ocean to the surface, where they feed the phytoplankton and other marine flora that suck in carbon, as well as fish and other smaller animals.
However, earlier this month Sir David took viewers to the icy continent of Antarctica for the first episode of his new BBC series “Seven Worlds, One Planet” and the 93-year-old revealed the shocking activities of the last two centuries.
He said: “Life here under the ice has remained unchanged for millennia, but in the last 200 years, much of Antarctica’s wildlife has had to face new predators – human beings.
“We devised new hunting techniques and used them so mercilessly that we almost exterminated great whales.“These whaling stations on South Georgia were at the centre of this industry.
“More than one-and-a-half million whales were slaughtered in Antarctic waters, the blubber was stripped from their massive bodies and boiled down in vats to make margarine and soap.
David Attenborough was pleased with the progress
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The recovery in life in Antarctic waters may have a significance that extends far beyond the reaches of the continent
“In just decades, a population of 35,000 whales was so reduced that only 35 of the females survived.”
There is hope though, the legendary presenter revealed.
He added: “But times have changed, a ban on the commercial hunting of whales, introduced in 1986, has stopped all of Japan, Norway and Iceland.
“Our relationship to these remarkable creatures has undergone a huge shift and by putting a stop to commercial hunting, this population has now grown to over 2,000.”
“The recovery in life in Antarctic waters may have a significance that extends far beyond the reaches of the continent and will affect us all.
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Whales were slaughtered in these waters
“Just off the coast of Elephant Island, we have recently witnessed what might be the greatest feeding spectacle on Earth.“On the horizon, over 150 whales have gathered to feast on krill.”
Sir David finalised, by revealing the incredible change that is now thriving in these waters.
He concluded: “This is the largest congregation of great whales ever filmed.
“These are mostly fin whales, up to 26 metres long, Humpback whales are dwarfed in comparison.
“Thousands of animals from all over Antarctica waters are making their way here.
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Now the ecosystem is returning
David Attenborough’s new series is now out
“These seas are, once again, beginning to brim with life and scientists have discovered that the Southern Ocean, and the life within it, soaks up more than twice as much carbon from the atmosphere as the Amazon rainforest.
“By protecting Antarctica, we don’t just protect the life here, we are helping to restore the natural balance of the entire planet.”
Sir David explained why he still gets the same buzz from making documentaries and hopes it will inspire others.
He explained: “It is extraordinary.
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“At the time people thought we were cranks but suddenly, after Blue Planet II, you hit the right note.
“I’m thrilled that we’re about to share this incredible series with the world.
“Seven Worlds, One Planet celebrates the variety of life on our planet while also shining a spotlight on its challenges.”
The third episode of Seven Worlds, One Planet was aired on BBC One on Sunday, November 10, at 6.15pm.
Viewers can now catch up with each instalment in Ultra-High-Definition (UHD) on BBC iPlayer.