Sea Otters and Aquatic Vegetation

Sea Otters and Aquatic Vegetation

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Sea otter populations have had a long journey from the brink of extinction after being extensively hunted for the fur trade in the 1800s. Legal protections enacted in the U.S. and Mexico have helped the population recover. In order to better understand how the reemergence of otters in these marine ecosystems has affected the kelp forests and other aquatic vegetation, we compiled data from the scientific literature to see whether or not larger otter populations are correlated with more abundant populations of kelp and seagrasses. We used the search terms "sea otters," "kelp forest," "benthic grazers,'' and "aquatic vegetation" to locate relevant sources for our study. We found that in areas with a larger sea otter population, there is a larger population of kelp and other aquatic vegetation, as well. This will provide awareness of the ways in which the loss of a keystone species can affect an aquatic ecosystem.


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Sea Otters and Aquatic Vegetation poster Sea Otters and Aquatic Vegetation Abigail Barnabas, Marcus Fritzen, Murielle Meacham


Key words:  Sea otters, algae, seagrass, kelp, sea urchin, trophic cascade, food web, keystone species, Wendy St. John, Sci120