Otters are carnivores that are on the top of the food chain. Food chains are forming a food web. Imagine there were no otters. This would influence all the animals that surround it in the food chain. If pollution, such as plastic, enters the water and the otters didn’t eat it, would this still be bad for otters? YES – For example, if plankton ate a tiny piece of plastic, then the crustaceans ate the plankton, the fish ate the crustacean then the otter ate the fish, the plastic is now in the otter. Since crustaceans eat a lot of plankton and fish eat a lot of crustaceans, this may mean the otter is getting a lot of plastic. This is the same for people –because we eat fish too!
A keystone species is a species that is not necessarily abundant in numbers but is of great importance to an ecosystem. It is like the keystone of an arch; if the keystone falls, so does the arch. In this case, whether the sea otter population has fallen to an extremely low level or has gone completely, the marine ecosystem would suffer drastically from the failure of this mammal.
A keystone species often keeps a specific species of animal or other living organisms in check which, in turn, keeps the ecosystem healthy. Damage to a population of key species could trigger a chain reaction of adverse ecosystem effects that eventually have an impact on the quality of human life in one way or another.
To understand how the trophic system works, it is important to note that sea otters are secondary consumers. In this case, the sea otter is considered an omnivore as it feasts on animals such as sea urchins and plants such as kelp.
Sea otters greatly impact the marine system. When the number of sea otters on an island decreases, the sea urchin biomass then increases. When the biomass of the sea urchin increases, the varech density has been shown to decrease accordingly.
Because kelp forests are such an integral part of local marine health it is important to make sure that they are left intact and healthy, which helps since they absorb carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. Sea Otters, have direct and indirect positive effects on kelp forests and marine systems. As a keystone species, sea otters not only control the sea urchin population. They are important for keeping the kelp forests alive and intact which provide habitat for many other marine species. They also mitigate negative anthropogenic effects.
A major portion of a sea urchin’s diet consists of algae. Without sea otters to control the sea urchin population, the sea urchins will swell in size and become uncontrollable. It is important because the marine otters can reduce herbivory and help kelp forests to continue to provide healthy marine habitats for many other aquatic creatures.
Kelp orests also decrease indirectly coastal erosion by reducing the harsh effects of waves. When kelp beds are depleted due to sea urchin predators, coastal health deteriorates.
However, sea otters have always been a good indicator of the health of sea creatures. obtaining them gives scientists a good indication of which pathogens are local and dangerous. This helps determine how healthy coastal sea creatures really are. Sea otters also trigger a trophic cascade when they are removed from an ecosystem because they are secondary consumers controlling organisms from the top down in the food web.
Since sea otters consume large amounts of sea urchins, the sea plants that the sea urchins feed on increase the size and density of the population. , for example, the presence of sea otters has allowed seagrass beds to thrive. This increase in seagrass abundance has slowly mitigated the adverse effects of nutrient loading on the marsh. This shows the importance of sea otter predation in consumer controls.
Aleutian Islands. Sea otter populations living on these islands were among the first. Although many populations on these islands recovered between 1965 and 1992, there is now an alarming trend of population decline between 1992 and 2000. Although data from subsequent aerial photographs of these populations have not yet been published for the past years, previous trends suggest that sea otter populations have been declining and will continue to decline.
Conservation of the sea otter should be of utmost importance; however, this way of thinking became popular only in the latter half of the 20th century. Identifying and negating threats to the sea otter population is important as the species population as a whole is not entirely stable. By understanding how greatly the sea otters impact the marine ecosystem, more efforts may be put into their conservation as a whole.
Preferably large reserves would be established instead of several small, separate reserves. If possible, the reserves should also be relatively close to each other and connected by some sort of corridor. n addition, it would be ideal to minimize direct and indirect anthropogenic effects. This includes the direct destruction of Sea Otter habitats.