Another Reason to Save Sea Otters: Their Snacking Habits Help the Planet

Posted by Dave Burdick

We're not sure if there's anything better than an animal that is both adorable and a valiant defender of the environment, but for the moment, let's assume not. 

According to a new study from University of California-Santa Cruz researchers, the sea otter's taste for sea urchins helps keep kelp forests thriving and absorbing carbon dioxide—because otherwise the sea urchins would eat a lot more kelp.

But that's not really the broader message here.

Wilmers and Estes acknowledge that a spreading otter population won't solve the problem of higher CO2 in the atmosphere but argue that the restoration and protection of otters is an example how managing animal populations can affect ecosystems abilities to sequester carbon.

In short, sea otters are just one kind of adorable, valiant defenders of the environment in need of their own valiant defenders.

Photo via Flickr (cc) user mikebaird.