Study finds endangered sea grasses boosted by return of sea otters

Two sea otters in the Olympic Coast National M...

Two sea otters in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Interesting how these studies keep appearing.  This one is from August 26th and shows how we are constantly changing the ecosystems around us, sometimes accidentally and sometimes disastrously.  This particular story gives hope – we think we can restore the balance, but can we …..?


Balance of Nature 2

Nitrates and phosphates run off to the sea,
a nutrient broth,
promoting the growth of noxious algae
that smothers the sea-grass leaves,
blocking the light,
killing the grass,
creating a plight
where ecology succumbs
and the lush meadows go,
destroyed by the flow
of polluting chemical scum.

Enter the slugs and the snails.
Not the garden pests with their slimy trails
but the ones that dwell under the sea,
well partial to the sumptuous sea-grass algae
which they scrape from the leaves as they graze,
ensuring the sea-grass stays.

But the slugs and the snails
are all up for grabs
by lurking, menacing, marauding crabs
who relish these snacks
as tasty to them as gravalax.
So slugs and snails dwindle,
the algae survives
and the sea-grass no longer can thrive.

What can we do to restore the balance
that we’ve put out of kilter
because we can’t filter
the nitrates and phosphates running off to the sea?
What can the answer be?

Two words – “sea otter”.
Yes you heard right, you gotta believe,
it’s not an attempt to deceive.
The little sea otter,
what a critical role this creature will play.
The otter eats crabs, lots of crabs
delicious, nutritious
and gastronomically fab-ulous.
So the slugs and snails
can make their escape,
living to hoover another day
scraping the algae away.
The algae goes,
the sea-grass grows
and the eco-system’s in balance again.


26th August 2013 – headline from the Independent

Notes:  “Study finds endangered sea grasses boosted by return of sea otters.”  The return of sea otters has caused a remarkable recovery of endangered sea grasses which grow in estuaries, bays and inlets and provide food and shelter for a wide variety of marine wildlife, a study has found.  Sea otters are considered to be top predators and it has surprised scientists to find that they have caused the growth of vegetation at the very bottom of the food chain. But the discovery is one of number of recent observations pointing to the importance of animals at the top of the ecological hierarchy to restore the overall health of a threatened habitat.  Sea grasses, also known as eel grass because of their long, thin leaves, are one of the few flowering plants that live in the sea and provide a rich habitat for a range of animals, such as fish, wildfowl and even large mammals such as manatees, or sea cows.


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