Essay about Impact of Sea Otters on Community Ecology

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Introduction Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are marine mammals capable of spending their entire lives in water. Being carnivorous in nature, they feed on sea urchins, crabs, fishes, mussels and clams. They are referred to as keystone species due to their profound impact on marine ecology. The interaction between sea otters, sea urchins and kelp forests has been studied as a model for the impact of predator-prey interactions on community ecology. Sea otters are keystone predators, whose presence has a far-reaching influence on the marine food web by affecting the populations of sea urchins, which indirectly affects the populations of kelp …show more content…
Therefore, sea otters play an indirect, yet vital role in the preservation of kelp forests. This in turn protects kelp forests and other macroalgae, which would have otherwise been depleted due to grazing by sea urchins. “Where sea otters abound so do lush kelp forests, and where sea otters are absent the habitat is typically deforested by hyperabundant sea urchins” (Soulé et al 1240). The significance of this interaction can be wholly surmised only when the importance of kelp forests is understood. “Kelp forests are a source of food and habitat for dozens of other coastal species” (Soulé et al 1240). Innumerable coastal marine organisms thrive on kelp forests, enhancing biodiversity of the region. Therefore, to maintain the diversity and richness of coastal marine ecology, sea otters should be preserved, who indirectly lead to the preservation of kelps.

Impact of sea otters on community ecology
The presence or absence of sea otters influences marine ecology at the community-level. Studies have shown that kelp forests enhance the underwater environment, providing a suitable habitat for fishes. The declining kelp beds in California in the mid 1900’s propelled the Kelp Habitat Improvement Project, whereby attempts were made to eliminate sea urchins that are
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