Can sea otters help fight global warming?
In case you needed another reason to love sea otters, a recent study out of UC Santa Cruz finds that a thriving sea otter population (that eats sea urchines) encourages kelp forests to prosper. The spreading kelp can absorb as much as 12 times the amount of CO2 from the atmosphere than if it were subject to ravenous sea urchins.
"It is significant because it shows that animals can have a big influence on the carbon cycle," said Chris Wilmers, associate professor of environmental studies.
A spreading otter population won’t solve the problem of higher CO2 in the atmosphere, but the authors argue that the restoration and protection of otters is an example how managing animal populations can affect ecosystems abilities to sequester carbon.
"Right now, all the climate change models and proposed methods of sequestering carbon ignore animals, but animals the world over, working in different ways to influence the carbon cycle, might actually have a large impact. If ecologists can get a better handle on what these impacts are, there might be opportunities for win-win conservation scenarios, whereby animal species are protected or enhanced, and carbon gets sequestered.”
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