Outside California, sea otters feast and participate in the fight for climate change

Outside California, sea otters feast and participate in the fight for climate change

Moss landing: Sea otters are helping keep marine forests healthy by feasting on seaweed-loving urchins, whose numbers have exploded californiaoff the coast, researchers have found.
A disease has wiped out its main predator, the sunflower sea star, and overgrazing the nutrient-rich kelp forests that grow along California’s cold shallow coastal waters provide shelter and food for marine life. Huh. Those kelp forests are already threatened by rising temperatures and ocean acidification.
A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that sea otters are restoring balance with their appetites, keeping urchin populations under control.
“Having a healthy ecosystem is really important to our future as we deal with the current effects of climate change … and sea otters have a really important role to play in that,” said Jessica Fujii, assistant manager of the Sea Otter Research Program. he said. At the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
“They may not be able to counter everything, but their presence is going to have a huge impact on the areas they need to survive, but also what humans like to enjoy,” Fujii said. , who co-authored the study with researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz and the US Geological Survey.
Amy David, vice president of ocean policy at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, explained that otters’ diets will help kelp forests grow and play a natural role against climate change, explaining that kelp absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
Sea otters are also helping eelgrass thrive in the Elkhorn Slough estuary in Monterey County, California.
The area has turned into an ecological treasure after years of introducing sea otters to the County Aquarium, which it has rescued and rehabilitated.
More than 100 endangered sea otters swim through this tidal creek daily, sharing their home waters with harbor seals, brown pelicans, egrets, and other creatures.
Sea otters eat crabs, which are the main predators of the eelgrass sea hare, which eat algae from eelgrass. Eelgrass also absorbs carbon dioxide and provides a buffer against climate change.
Fuji studies sea otters in Alaska and through the Aquarium’s program, in which captive adult sea otters teach pups to swim and hunt before they are released into the wild.
“Even after more than a decade of doing this work, I still love watching otters and seeing how they are interacting with their environment and enjoying the rest of the wildlife,” Fujii said.
“It’s really important to see it healthy and in balance.”

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