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The community ecology of the organism - Research Paper Example

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Sea otters are marine mammals capable of spending their entire lives in water.Being carnivorous in nature, they feed on sea urchins, crabs, fishes, mussels and clams. They are referred to as keystone species due to their profound impact on marine ecology…
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The community ecology of the organism
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Sea otters are keystone predators, whose presence has a far-reaching influence on the marine food web by affecting the populations of sea urchins, which indirectly affects the populations of kelp forests & other marine organisms. There has been a steep decline in sea otter populations due to water pollution and exploitation for furs. This has affected marine ecology adversely. It is therefore suggested that sea otters should be included in the endangered species list to protect them from further exploitation. This study focuses on the community ecology of sea otters and their impact on marine ecology. The need for their inclusion in the Endangered Species list and implications of such an intervention are also evaluated. Community ecology Sea otters predate on many herbivorous invertebrates, including sea urchins. Sea urchins feed on kelps, which are an important habitat for fishes and other marine organisms. A high population of sea urchins has an adverse effect on kelp forests. Since sea otters predate upon sea urchins, their populations are kept in check. “This reduces the grazing pressure on kelp, facilitating macroalgal growth” (Laidre). Therefore, sea otters play an indirect, yet vital role in the preservation of kelp forests. This in turn protects kelp forests and other macroalgae, which would have otherwise been depleted due to grazing by sea turn protects kelp forests and other macroalgae, which would have otherwise been depleted due to grazing by sea urchins. “Where sea otters abound so do lush kelp forests, and where sea otters are absent the habitat is typically deforested by hyperabundant sea urchins” (Soule et al 1240). The significance of this interaction can be wholly surmised only when the importance of kelp forests is understood. “Kelp forests are a source of food and habitat for dozens of other coastal species” (Soule et al 1240). Innumerable coastal marine organisms thrive on kelp forests, enhancing biodiversity of the region. Therefore, to maintain the diversity and richness of coastal marine ecology, sea otters should be preserved, who indirectly lead to the preservation of kelps. Impact of sea otters on community ecology The presence or absence of sea otters influences marine ecology at the community-level. Studies have shown that kelp forests enhance the underwater environment, providing a suitable habitat for fishes. The declining kelp beds in California in the mid 1900’s propelled the Kelp Habitat Improvement Project, whereby attempts were made to eliminate sea urchins that are primary predators of kelps. Studies showed that the elimination of sea otters during the 1800s from the Californian waters might be responsible for the dwindling numbers of kelp forests. Further studies have also shown that the population density of sea otters affects seaweed biodiversity too. In a study conducted in Alaska on three different bays, the Torch Bay, Deer Harbor and the Surge Bay, it was found that “the presence of sea otters led to a decrease in the population of sea urchins, which led to an increase in the population of seaweeds” (“Interaction with kelps & sea otters”). In addition, it was also found that annual kelps predominated the areas where sea otters were present, and perennial kelps predominated in areas that had lesser sea otter populations (qtd. in “Interaction with kelps & sea otters”). As is evident, sea otters are vital for maintenance of kelp communities that are primary habitats of other coastal marine ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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