how do sea otters help the ecosystem

In the Monterey Bay, the sea otter lives in kelp forest and estuary habitats. According to a recent study , otter-supported kelp forests can absorb up to 12 times more CO2 from the … Dispose of hazardous wastes properly. As otter populations recovered, these changes worked in reverse as the otters’ doings as a top predator flow down through the ecosystem. When the otter populations dwindled from fur poaching, crab populations ended up … They are an irreplaceable organism to achieve the balanced ecosystem functioning, and yet, the population of these gentle creatures is threatened by commercial fishing, loss of the nesting habitat, as well as, climate change. Southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis), also known as California sea otters, have been listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act since 1977. Fortunately, sea otters have an appetite for sea urchins and they help to keep sea urchins in check, allowing the kelp to flourish and capture CO 2. Though sea otters receive plenty of well-deserved attention based on their pleasing appearance, focusing on their integral role to a healthy ecosystem and the services that ecosystem provides to mankind is a point worth making when confronted with the narrow economic interests of commercial shellfishers. The sea otter is covered in dense fur that consists of two layers. 2012). 1. How do sea otters help the kelp combat climate change? However, these smaller urchins are a favourite food of sunflower stars. River otters are not that long-lived; the oldest female in this study was 12 years old, the oldest male, 13. 10 Jul, 2016 09:39 PM 12 minutes to read. Sea otters are considered a keystone species because of the crucial ecological role they play in maintaining the health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystem. This allows kelp bed forests to grow and increase marine fauna density and diversity, which aids in the development of new ecosystems. What we just saw with the otters, sea hares, and eelgrass is called a trophic cascade: when the removal or addition of a top predator drastically changes an ecosystem.. In a kelp forest, sea urchins can graze on the kelp and eat their holdfasts , resulting in deforesting the kelp from an area. Sea otters eat 25 percent of their body weight each day in sea urchins, crabs, clams, snails and other invertebrates. The sea otter ecosystem is largely made up of thick kelp forests. Kelp forests provide food and shelter for large numbers of fish and shellfish. Sea otters are known to use stones as hammers to break shells. Otters also have a pivotal role in river ecosystems. Climates are changing rapidly due to the human-caused accumulation of greenhouse gases (in particular carbon dioxide) preventing the release of radioactive waves away from Earth into the atmosphere leading to a gradual warming of the planet (Benestad 2016). We don’t want to be inadvertently killing them with our cars. sea otters Climate change, predators, and the trickle down effects on ecosystems Ecologists are just beginning to understand how the impacts of climate change are affecting predatory keystone species and their ecosystems. In places where sea otters have disappeared, sea urchins will eat the kelp forest until it’s gone. Sea Otters play an important role in the ecosystem, and may even be mitigating some of the harmful environmental impacts of human activity. Southern sea otters can live to approximately 15 years for males and 16 years for females. This can translate into a large amount of their prey removed from the ecosystem. 6. They do, however, play an important role in the Salish Sea. When otters are present, urchins hide in crevices and snack on kelp scraps. The otters, despite being very small, have impressive behaviors. The other two ecosystem services, carbon sequestration and fish catch, also showed a predicted increase in annual economic gains with the presence of sea otters, mainly due to the sea otter’s role in increasing biomass of other species in the ecosystem. Sea turtles have their place in this delicate network of life-providing services as well. As mentioned previously, sea otters like to feed on crabs. Sea Otter Natural History. Sea otters are part of a giant kelp ecosystem. Their feeding, reproduction, behavior and adaptations are features that catch people's attention. They are predators, meaning they help control the populations of food species they prey upon. Reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever you can. Restoring sea otters, however, is a regional effort that has the ability to mitigate reef erosion by urchins, and pull the ecosystem back from its tipping point. Habitat. This affects the ecosystem as a whole, and as a result, their presence is a signal that the ecosystem is healthy. When sea otters were removed from this marine ecosystem, coastal crab populations were allowed to explode. An ecosystem is like a community, and like any successful, healthy one, everyone is embraced for their unique contributions! A. Sea urchins can cause “urchin barrens where kelp are sparse or absent,” when in the absence of sea otters, their predators (Clasen and Shurin 2015). Sea otters have been found to play a pivotal role in the habitat and marine life that inhabit a kelp forest . “We need to manage the return of sea otter populations if we’re going to save this ecosystem,” Rasher said. The sea otters don't directly affect the seagrass, but they do eat enormous amounts of crabs, dramatically reducing the number and size of crabs in the slough. Sea urchins are related to starfish and look like small, purple hedgehogs. Sea Otters as a Keystone Species. Essay by Emma Yesenia P.R. Thus, sea otters control the abundance of crabs and crabs control the abundance of seagrass in their oceanic ecosystem. Sea otters prey on a variety of sea animals, and this can end up influencing the marine ecosystems that they live in. The food sea otters eat can impact the entire ecosystem in which they live. They feed on sea urchins that feed on kelp. 7. The longest recorded sea otter dive was 4 minutes, 2 and the deepest recorded sea otter dive was 318 feet (97 m) deep. Now that you know how vital a sea otters’ role in the ecosystem is and why they’re threatened we want to let you in on 12 simple steps that will help to maintain and hopefully increase sea otter populations. 1. Though there are many other interactions between sea otters and their prey species, the best example of this effect is the sea urchin. Underwater forests of kelp provide an environment for numerous species of fish and invertebrates. Otters … Therefore, sea otters are crucial to maintaining kelp forest levels, which provide cover and food for many marine animals. For example, they transfer marine-derived nitrogen to the terrestrial ecosystem. In addition, kelp forests capture carbon in these ecosystems which helps to offset carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. The sea urchin population decreases, and the kelp population increases B. Unfortunately sea otters are having to fight off more than just predators to survive these days. Photo / iStock. Their consumption of sea urchins, in particular, plays a critical role in the underwater ecosystem. The other two ecosystem services, carbon sequestration and fish catch, also showed a predicted increase in annual economic gains with the presence of sea otters, mainly due to the sea otter’s role in increasing biomass of other species in the ecosystem. The sea otter, a voracious urchin-eater and possessor of the densest fur in the animal kingdom. In California's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary the sea otter is a keystone species in the kelp forest ecosystem. How does hunting sea otters affect the population of sea urchins and kelp in the ecosystem? The sea otter is an important part of both of these habitats — It’s a keystone species, which means that the health of sea otters is a good indication of the health of other species and ecosystems nearby. Otters have thick fur, which makes them attractive to … The influence of sea otters in the Aleutian Islands is well-known. It makes its home in a burrow near the water's edge, and can thrive in river, lake, swamp, or estuary ecosystems. With fewer crabs to prey on them, grazing invertebrates like sea slugs become more abundant and larger. This means that, when they are removed, the rest of the ecosystem collapses. Females otters nature at 3 years of age and males at age 5. 5. Fortunately, sea otters have an appetite for urchins. The kelp itself p lays an important role in capturing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the coastal ecosystem. For example, they prey on sea urchins, which reduce grazing pressure. Sea otters are what is known as a keystone species. A lot of sea otter research focuses on kelp. These crabs like to feed on seagrass in their marine community. The kelp can flourish, providing habitat for many ocean organisms. Unlike other marine mammals, sea otters do not have a thick layer of blubber and rely upon their water-resistant fur for insulation. Otters help protect kelp from sea urchins, which in … The playful North American river otter is equally at home in the water and on land. However, human affects have altered some top down and bottom up controls on this community. Sea otters aren’t just cute – these marine mammals play a vital role protecting the kelp forests which maintain our climate and prevent storm damage. They leave behind desolate areas called urchin barrens. The sea urchin population decreases, and the kelp population decreases C. (edited by Professor Krista Williams) Sea otters are extremely tender animals that undoubtedly draw attention because of their faces and the ways in which they behave. Sea otters do an excellent job of eating large sea urchins over eight centimetres in diameter, but they tend to leave behind smaller urchins. Sea otters use rocks to crack open their prey as fast as 45 blows in 15 seconds. These small urchins also readily devour kelp, and if their numbers swell, they begin to thin out kelp forests. Grow a garden. The otters help keep urchin populations in check, allowing kelp to flourish and capture more CO2. Kelp also protect coastlines from damaging wave action. How sea otters help save the planet. “Sea otters have a positive indirect effect on kelp biomass by preying on sea urchins, kelp grazer” (Wilmers et al. One of the sea otter's favorite delicacies is the sea urchin who in turn loves kelp. 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