Central Coast otters battle climate change
September 13, 2012
Sea otters are now being touted for helping to fight global warming, according to a pair of scientists from UC Santa Cruz. [MercuryNews]
The reasoning is really fairly simple: kelp removes carbon from the environment, sea urchins are ravenous creatures eating as much as 30 feet of kelp forests a month and the sea otter’s favorite food is urchin. So, more sea otters equal more vibrant undersea kelp forests and lower carbon dioxide levels, which have gone up 40 percent since the Industrial Revolution.
James Estes, a UCSC biologist, and Chris Wilmers, a UCSC environmental studies professor, found that if otters covered the globe, the resulting growth in kelp forests would strip 10 percent of the carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
However, because sea otter habitat only ranges along the West Coast of North America, with the number of otters off of California estimated at just more than 2,700, the actual impact is significantly lower.
More significant is how a species can impact an ecosystem, potentially playing an important role.