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Can sea otters help fight global warming?


Narrator:       This is Science Today. Can an abundance of sea otters help fight global warming? A University of California, Santa Cruz, study found that a thriving sea otter population will keep sea urchins in check and this in turn will help kelp forests prosper. Wildlife ecologist Chris Wilmers explains that kelp is very efficient at sequestering carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

Wilmers:        What we found is that when you have otters in an ecosystem that leads to really healthy, verdant kelp forests, which suck in a lot of carbon from the atmosphere. When you get rid of the otters, the sea urchins, which they eat, multiply and graze down the kelp. And you end up with a sort of barren ecosystem that absorbs very little carbon from the atmosphere.

Narrator:       Wilmers says the importance of this is that right now, all the climate change models and proposals to sequester carbon don't factor in animals. For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.