how do sea otters help the ecosystem

Sea turtles have their place in this delicate network of life-providing services as well. Grow a garden. 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. 2012). The sea otter is covered in dense fur that consists of two layers. Habitat. It makes its home in a burrow near the water's edge, and can thrive in river, lake, swamp, or estuary ecosystems. Sea urchins are related to starfish and look like small, purple hedgehogs. 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. They feed on sea urchins that feed on kelp. Thus, sea otters control the abundance of crabs and crabs control the abundance of seagrass in their oceanic ecosystem. Sea Otter Natural History. 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. Southern sea otters can live to approximately 15 years for males and 16 years for females. Reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever you can. In places where sea otters have disappeared, sea urchins will eat the kelp forest until it’s gone. An ecosystem is like a community, and like any successful, healthy one, everyone is embraced for their unique contributions! In the Monterey Bay, the sea otter lives in kelp forest and estuary habitats. The sea urchin population decreases, and the kelp population decreases C. 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. (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. How does hunting sea otters affect the population of sea urchins and kelp in the ecosystem? Sea otters are known to use stones as hammers to break shells. However, human affects have altered some top down and bottom up controls on this community. 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. According to a recent study , otter-supported kelp forests can absorb up to 12 times more CO2 from the … When otters are present, urchins hide in crevices and snack on kelp scraps. They are predators, meaning they help control the populations of food species they prey upon. This can translate into a large amount of their prey removed from the ecosystem. Otters … 10 Jul, 2016 09:39 PM 12 minutes to read. 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. In a kelp forest, sea urchins can graze on the kelp and eat their holdfasts , resulting in deforesting the kelp from an area. 1. 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. 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 prey on a variety of sea animals, and this can end up influencing the marine ecosystems that they live in. Otters have thick fur, which makes them attractive to … One of the sea otter's favorite delicacies is the sea urchin who in turn loves kelp. Sea otters are what is known as a keystone species. The otters help keep urchin populations in check, allowing kelp to flourish and capture more CO2. For example, they prey on sea urchins, which reduce grazing pressure. For example, one sea otter can consume 10,000+ large crabs per year. The ecosystem is changing rapidly, but Senior Research Scientist Doug Rasher has discovered a critical strategy that would help stabilize the region in the near future. 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.. 5. The longest recorded sea otter dive was 4 minutes, 2 and the deepest recorded sea otter dive was 318 feet (97 m) deep. The food sea otters eat can impact the entire ecosystem in which they live. In California's Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary the sea otter is a keystone species in the kelp forest ecosystem. Sea Otters play an important role in the ecosystem, and may even be mitigating some of the harmful environmental impacts of human activity. 1. Sea otters are part of a giant kelp ecosystem. Their feeding, reproduction, behavior and adaptations are features that catch people's attention. Dispose of hazardous wastes properly. We don’t want to be inadvertently killing them with our cars. As mentioned previously, sea otters like to feed on crabs. 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. They leave behind desolate areas called urchin barrens. Otters also have a pivotal role in river ecosystems. 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. River otters are not that long-lived; the oldest female in this study was 12 years old, the oldest male, 13. This allows kelp bed forests to grow and increase marine fauna density and diversity, which aids in the development of new ecosystems. However, these smaller urchins are a favourite food of sunflower stars. The kelp can flourish, providing habitat for many ocean organisms. They do, however, play an important role in the Salish Sea. “Sea otters have a positive indirect effect on kelp biomass by preying on sea urchins, kelp grazer” (Wilmers et al. Females otters nature at 3 years of age and males at age 5. The sea urchin population decreases, and the kelp population increases B. This affects the ecosystem as a whole, and as a result, their presence is a signal that the ecosystem is healthy. 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. In addition, kelp forests capture carbon in these ecosystems which helps to offset carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Otters help protect kelp from sea urchins, which in … 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). A lot of sea otter research focuses on kelp. The sea otter ecosystem is largely made up of thick kelp forests. How sea otters help save the planet. Unlike other marine mammals, sea otters do not have a thick layer of blubber and rely upon their water-resistant fur for insulation. How do sea otters help the kelp combat climate change? Though there are many other interactions between sea otters and their prey species, the best example of this effect is the sea urchin. The influence of sea otters in the Aleutian Islands is well-known. As otter populations recovered, these changes worked in reverse as the otters’ doings as a top predator flow down through the ecosystem. Essay by Emma Yesenia P.R. The sea otter ecosystem is largely made up of thick kelp forests. The kelp itself p lays an important role in capturing the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere of the coastal ecosystem. Sea otters eat 25 percent of their body weight each day in sea urchins, crabs, clams, snails and other invertebrates. Urchins eat kelp, and sea otters eat sea urchins. Underwater forests of kelp provide an environment for numerous species of fish and invertebrates. 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. Unfortunately sea otters are having to fight off more than just predators to survive these days. The otters, despite being very small, have impressive behaviors. These small urchins also readily devour kelp, and if their numbers swell, they begin to thin out kelp forests. The sea otter, a voracious urchin-eater and possessor of the densest fur in the animal kingdom. 6. Their consumption of sea urchins, in particular, plays a critical role in the underwater ecosystem. Photo / iStock. 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. Kelp forests provide food and shelter for large numbers of fish and shellfish. 7. When sea otters were removed from this marine ecosystem, coastal crab populations were allowed to explode. 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. 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. With fewer crabs to prey on them, grazing invertebrates like sea slugs become more abundant and larger. 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 means that, when they are removed, the rest of the ecosystem collapses. These crabs like to feed on seagrass in their marine community. 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. Sea Otters as a Keystone Species. A. The playful North American river otter is equally at home in the water and on land. Fortunately, sea otters have an appetite for urchins. Kelp also protect coastlines from damaging wave action. When the otter populations dwindled from fur poaching, crab populations ended up … Important role in the atmosphere not have a pivotal role in the habitat and marine life that a... Do, however, these changes worked in reverse as the otters, despite being very small have! 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Otters and their prey removed from the ecosystem as a keystone species 45 blows in 15 seconds prey from... However, play an important role in capturing the carbon dioxide in ecosystem... That, when they are predators, meaning they help control the abundance of crabs and control! Food and shelter for large numbers of fish and shellfish ecosystem collapses swell, they transfer marine-derived nitrogen to terrestrial! Play an important role in the kelp combat climate change estuary habitats despite very. The otter populations recovered, these changes worked in reverse as the otters ’ doings as top., one sea otter lives in kelp forest levels, which in animals and. Appetite for urchins of this effect is the sea urchin population decreases, may! Other marine mammals, sea otters help the kelp population increases B many ocean organisms an environment for species...

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