Keep Earth a Living Planet
Welcome to K.E.L.P. (Keep Earth a Living Planet), a program and mission initiated by Friends of the Sea Otter that begins in 2015, and is inspired by the dependence of living things upon each other that keep this planet alive!
As an organization, FSO understands the interconnectivity of the Earth and its ecosystems. K.E.L.P. exists to promote this inter-balance, and to confront the threats that these ecosystems and the life they harbor face. Maintaining this connectivity and delicate balance through advocacy, partnerships, and alliances is the main objective of K.E.L.P.
Sea otters are an integral component to the ocean’s nearshore marine ecosystem, as NPR discusses here. Considered a keystone species, these charismatic marine mammals play a critical role in maintaining the structure of this underwater community. Their absence would bring catastrophic results to these nearshore marine ecosystems and the species they harbor.
Sea Otters: Keystone Species
Acting as nurseries for many different aquatic species, kelp forests are an integral part of the underwater ecosystem. Without them, developing species would not have their protection, and thus become vulnerable targets. As shown in the video below, kelp forests are a main prey item for sea urchins. With no predators around, sea urchin populations can multiply, forming herds that sweep across the ocean floor devouring entire stands of kelp. Enter the sea otter.
The sea urchin is a main food source for the sea otter. Playing the role as “protector of the kelp beds”, the sea otter is able to maintain the balance of the ecosystem, naturally, by consuming sea urchins. As a result, kelp forests avoid devastation, aquatic species are able to mature and live in their natural environment and sea otters, a threatened species, are able to survive.
Sea Otters and Climate Change
The K.E.L.P. program recognizes the importance that the sea otter has on its ecosystem. But why is this ecosystem so valuable and worth protecting? The K.E.L.P. program exists to conserve our nearshore marine ecosystems and educate the public about the interconnectivity of our oceans (in which the sea otter plays a critical role).
Climate change results when there is a consistent buildup of heat-trapping gases in the Earth’s atmosphere. One of the main gasses leading to the cause of this phenomenon is the emission carbon dioxide (CO2), which comes from the burning of fossil fuels.
Much like the rain forests of the Amazon, Kelp forests are considered one of the more effective sequesters of carbon dioxide on the planet. The large, algae like forests absorbs carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis, transforming it into the energy they need to continue their growth and expansion in the sea.
The video below, provided by Quest, explains the linkage between sea otters, sea urchins, kelp forests, and ultimately climate change mitigation. It should be noted, before watching, that, a recent study shows kelp forests with higher sea otters present can absorb up to 12 times more CO2 from the atmosphere than if they were just left to the urchins. Watch and enjoy!