Just by munching on one of their favorite foods, sea otters may combat climate change. New research out of University of California Santa Cruz (UCSC) suggests that a thriving population of sea otters may keep sea urchin populations in check. Sea urchins devour sea kelp, which can absorb vast amounts of carbon dioxide.
The theory is outlined in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment by lead authors Chris Wilmers and James Estes, who are both UCSC professors. The researchers 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, according to a UCSC press release.
“Right now, all the climate change models and proposed methods of sequestering carbon ignore animals,” Dr. Wilmers said. “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,” he said.
Check out a dozen photos of adorable otters who are saving the world right now, below!
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