Hungry sea otters are helping save California's marshlands from erosion
February 7, 2024 8:51 PM   Subscribe

Hungry sea otters are helping save California's marshlands from erosion. Researchers found that the return of the crab-eating sea otters to a tidal estuary near Monterey, California, helped curb erosion. Sea otters eat constantly and one of their favorite snacks is the striped shore crab. These crabs dig burrows and also nibble away roots of the marsh grass pickleweed that holds dirt in place. Left unchecked, the crabs turn the marsh banks into Swiss cheese, which can collapse when big waves or storms hit, said Brent Hughes, a Sonoma State University marine ecologist and co-author of the new study published Wednesday in the journal Nature.
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries (7 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
That is so satisfactory.
posted by clew at 9:21 PM on February 7 [1 favorite]


If anyone is hungry for additional hungry otter stories, here is a 2022 article from US Fish and Wildlife about otters and their role as a keystone species in the Pacific Northwest. Here the otters control sea urchin populations that in turn has beneficial effects on seagrass abundance and kelp forests --kelp forests that, aside from being a source of carbon sequestration, provide fish and other sea life use for shelter and food.

Otter species along these coastal areas were pretty much hunted out of existence by the 18th and 19th century fur trade. Observing the effects of the reintroduction of otters to these environments after their sharp and sudden removal is both emotionally satisfying and a reminder that seemingly small changes to an ecosystem might mean larger consequences as that ecosystem finds a new balance.
posted by Avelwood at 11:49 PM on February 7 [4 favorites]


Opened up the article and, yep, Elkhorn Slough! It has been a great place to see sea otters for a long time. They used to have a live ottercam but that went away. You can still see highlights on their Youtube channel.

But be careful visiting because the sea otters may decide to film you in return!
posted by rednikki at 8:54 AM on February 8 [3 favorites]


I shall celebrate by going to the All-U-Can-Eat seafood bar this weekend
posted by The otter lady at 9:40 AM on February 8 [5 favorites]


yay otters!! my husband took the train to so cal recently and could see the otters from the train at the Slough. I had always imagined that word was pronounced "sluff" which I still want it to be, but "sloooooo" will do!
posted by supermedusa at 12:40 PM on February 8 [2 favorites]


Was coming in to mention the work sea otters are doing to curb the urchins in BC. It's amazing.
posted by Mitheral at 7:16 PM on February 8 [1 favorite]


Forwarded it to the otter enthusiast of the family.

I visited the otters living at Atlanterhavsparken last summer, and they were great fun to watch. The aquarium in its entirety is also recommended.
posted by Harald74 at 6:13 AM on February 9


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