Sea Otters Help Reduce Atmospheric CO2

Written by on September 8, 2012 in Marine Life
Sea otters holding hands. Photo credit: joemess from austin

To keep from drifting apart, sea otters may sleep holding hands. Photo credit: joemess from austin.

A new study from the University of California, Santa Cruz has shown that sea otters can help reduce atmospheric CO2.

Sea otters feed primarily on sea urchins.  A healthy population of sea otters keeps the urchin populations under control which allows kelp forests to thrive.  This greatly benefits the environment because kelp can absorb as much as 12 times the amount of CO2 from the atmosphere than if the kelp was destroyed by sea urchins.

“It is significant because it shows that animals can have a big influence on the carbon cycle,” said one of the lead authors, Chris Wilmers, assistant professor of environmental studies at UCSC.

“Right now, all the climate change models and proposed methods of sequestering carbon ignore animals,” explained Wilmers.  “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.

You can read the full press release from USCS here:

You can read an outline of the paper published in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment here:

The full paper will be published in the October issue of the journal.

Sea otters lounging and eating. Photo credit Dr. Mridula Srinavasan, NOAA

Sea otters lounging and eating. Photo credit Dr. Mridula Srinavasan, NOAA

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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