Does a large population of sea otters reverse one of the principal causes of climate change? New research from the UC Santa Cruz is suggesting that a population boom of sea otters would go a long way to reduce sea urchin numbers, and therefore allow kelp forests to become very large.
“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, the study finds.” Of course, altering a food chain so significantly could have unintended consequences.
The theory was just outlined in a paper published September 7 in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment.
“It is significant because it shows that animals can have a big influence on the carbon cycle,” said Wilmers, assistant professor of environmental studies.
“Wilmers, Estes, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, and their co-authors, combined 40 years of data on otters and kelp bloom from Vancouver Island to the western edge of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands. They found that otters “undoubtedly have a strong influence on the cycle of CO2 storage.”