Sea Otters can save the world from global warming!

A new study says :

Sea Otters can save the world from environmental collapse. All they have to do is what comes naturally — keep eating Sea Urchins. More Otters means less Urchins, and less Urchins means more healthy kelp forests. More healthy kelp forests means less CO2. According to the researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, ‘a thriving Sea Otter population that keeps Sea Urchins in check will in turn allow kelp forests (Kelp forests are underwater areas with a high density of kelp. They are recognized as one of the most productive and dynamic ecosystems on Earth) to prosper. The spreading kelp can absorb as much as 12 times the amount of CO2 from the atmosphere than if it were subject to ravenous Sea Urchins. Sea Otters have a positive indirect effect on kelp biomass by preying on Sea Urchins, a kelp grazer.’

Awwww. I was almost kissing a Sea Otter for it could save the world. I was so happy but a man named Ian Chant said, ‘It’s not a ton of help!’
Me: Why not?
Ian Chant: ‘Climate change is exacerbated by greenhouse gas emissions that come from pretty much everything cool that humans do from driving cars to operating power plants to farming cattle!…’
Me: We know it. Don’t we? Tell me what should we do now? Should we give up hope?
Ian Chant: ‘Kelp beds where otters hang out are some of the most efficient CO2 absorbers known to us. But sea urchins love to eat some kelp bed.’
Me: And Sea Otters love to eat sea urchins.
Ian Chant: ‘Yes, but it’s not a ton of help, ultimately, but considering the greenhouse gas emissions mess we’re in — and how much worse it could get — man, we’ll take any help we can get’.
Me: Yes, we should take any help we can get. It makes sense.

But the Sea Otter, a marine mammal native to the coasts of the northern and eastern North Pacific Ocean is dying. Sea Otters are killed by Sharks. But we should not kill sharks to save Sea Otters. Lots of Sea Otters die because of protozoan parasites, Toxoplasma gondii and Sarcocystis neurona, that are known to breed in cats and opossums. Sea Otters are dying because cat owners flush used litter down the toilet! (Outdoor cat eats rodent or bird infected with Toxoplasma gondii parasite. Parasite develops in cat’s gut and its eggs are released in scat. Eggs travel through runoff or are flushed into sewers. Eggs end up in the ocean and are ingested by mussels, clams and oysters. Otter eats shellfish; eggs infect the otter’s brain and organs and kill it.) Sea Otters are also killed by thorny-headed worms dropped into the ocean by seabirds. And they get killed because of industrial chemicals, algae blooms and other toxins linked to coastal pollution. Toxic algae that blooms triggered by urea, a key ingredient in fertilizer. How does it happen? Again, through shellfish, shellfish eats everything and Sea Otters eat shellfish.

The truth is, we will not able to save Sea Otters from dying because we are unable to stop seabirds from dropping thorny-headed worms into the ocean, to stop shellfish from eating everything whatever they get, to stop sharks from biting Sea Otters and, moreover, we are unable stop ourselves from polluting our oceans.


  1. Samantha Vimes, Chalkboard Monitor says

    We could, however, let the sea otters spread down to Southern California, where they want to be, but abalone fishermen won’t permit.
    We could be more careful about sediment washes into the sea, often caused by coastal construction, that allow large beds of kelp to be scoured away in hours during storms.
    We could harvest enough urchins off the coast of Oregon for the kelp beds to grow there, making it possible for the sea otters to return to what was once their home territory.
    We could get people to keep their cats as *indoor* pets (even though I love me some neighbor cats), so that they don’t catch the toxioplasmosis from the rodents. I don’t know how rodent poop doesn’t wash to the sea, though.
    Or we could manage more algae farms.

    But let’s drop our CO2 emissions. And let’s do something to try to capture the permafrost methane. Thawing ancient vegetation could provide heat and electricity with the help of a lot of small generation plants.
    Let’s plant lots of urban vegetation. Let’s reduce our meat consumption so we don’t watch rainforest cleared to make ranch space. Let’s have more buses and bikes and fewer cars on the road. Let’s eat local food, if we can.

    • Nepenthe says

      I don’t know how rodent poop doesn’t wash to the sea, though.

      It does, but it doesn’t matter. Toxoplasma gondii has two types of reproduction. In every host, it migrates into tissues like the brain and liver and forms little cysts, which are infectious when eaten. (Incidentally, most Toxoplasma infections in humans are caused by eating these cysts in poorly cooked meat, not via contact with cat feces.) In felines and only felines, it also reproduces infective cells in the intestinal wall, which are then passed on through feces. Because it doesn’t go through this intestinal wall reproductive phase in rodents, rodent feces doesn’t pass on the parasite.

      Sarcocystis neurona is a related organism (they’re both coccidians) and has pretty much the same reproductive strategy, except that it’s only carried in opossum feces.


  2. roger ivanhart says

    Excellent expose of how our little, unthinking actions all add up. The little things we do, individually, add to the little things our relatives, friends and neighbours do and before we know it we’re producing as much emissions as a power station or as much pollution as an oil rig.

    Wouldn’t it be great if every blogger, vlogger, tweeter and Facebook user occasionally dedicated a piece of writing or video to remind us of the damage we are all doing to our environment and, if we are to maintain the lifestyles to which we in the developed world have become accustomed, that we all have a duty to use our energy and treat our waste wisely and responsibly?

    Well done, Taslima.

  3. says

    Multiple species intereactions. Lotka Volterra Equations. Some of this stuff should be taught in maths courses. People use differential equations all the time in physics, but one flavour of ecology is the attempt to do mathematical modelling of real life situations … and also to look for ways to check real data against plausibility of a particular model.

    I really love the way Taslima weaves the thread, in showing how things are connected.

  4. pintu says

    Taslima Nasrin, aj 5 din apnar boi porchi, birotihin, naoa khaoa vule giey,joto pori sudhu bisssito hoi, kono kono somoy apnar jonno voy hoy, abar kokhono apnar meyebelar kotha pore koste chok die pani jhore,
    ami kokhono karur jonno kadi nai, jibone ei prothom apnar jonno chok theke du fota pani sudhu apnar jonno uttsorgo korlam,
    apnake miss kori, amra o ei desher mati,

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