Todd Woody, TakePart’s senior editor for environment and wildlife. “Think of sea otters as the park rangers of coastal kelp forests. The floating thickets of treelike seaweed provide habitat for a plethora of marine life, including seals, sea lions, whales, gulls, terns, and snowy egrets. Like terrestrial forests, kelp forests absorb huge quantities of carbon dioxide that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. (If you’re a surfer, kelp is cool because great white sharks don’t like to venture into the tangle of seaweed, so it’s safe to ride waves when otters are nearby.)
“Sea otters must eat a quarter of their body weight each day to keep warm, and their appetites make them voracious consumers of spiny urchins, according to Rebecca Martone, a marine biologist at the Center for Ocean Solutions at Stanford University.
“Left unchecked by otters, spiny urchins would multiply and lay waste to kelp forests, creating oceanic dead zones, Martone and her colleagues said in a presentation on Tuesday at the Ecological Society of America’s annual conference in Sacramento, Calif.
“Fortunately for kelp forests and the marine animals that depend on them, the sea otter is one of the few predators that can crack the urchin’s hard shell.”
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GR: The decline of Sea Otters reminds us that large animals play a large role in Earth ecosystems. Unfortunately, the new human regime has hit them hardest. Losing the ecosystem regulators probably accelerates the extinction of smaller species.