The Impact of Sea Otters on Marine Ecology Essays

The Impact of Sea Otters on Marine Ecology Essays

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Sea otters (Enhydra lutris) 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. The interaction between sea otters, sea urchins and kelp forests has been studied as a model of the impact of predator-prey interaction on community ecology. Sea otters are keystone predators, whose presence has a far-reaching influence on the marine food web by affecting the population of sea urchins in particular, and kelp forests & other marine organisms in general. There has been a steep decline in sea otter populations due to water pollution and exploitation for furs. This has affected marine ecology adversely. This study, therefore, 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 the implications of such an intervention are also evaluated.

Community ecology
Sea otters predate on many herbivorous invertebrates, including the sea urchin. 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. The population density of sea urchins is kept under control because of predation by sea otters. This in turn protects kelp forests and other macroalgae, which would have otherwise been depleted due to grazing by sea urchins. According to Soulé et al, “Where sea otters abound so do lush kelp forests, and where sea otters are absent the habitat is typically deforested by hyperabundant sea urchins. Numerous indirect effects also result from this tro...

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...d this source to study the interaction between sea otter, sea urchin and kelp. This resource summarized key findings on this aspect.}.

Laidre, Kristin L. “Sea otter (Enhydra lutris) community ecology”. Web. 28 July 2011. <>
{The above reference is selected as primary literature resource describing the ecological importance of sea otter. I needed this source to identify the impact of sea otter on marine ecology.}.

Soule, Michael E et al. “Ecological Effectiveness: Conservation Goals for Interactive Species.” Conservation Biology 17.5 (2003) : 1238-1250.
{The above reference is selected as primary literature resource detailing research of community ecology of the sea otter. I needed this source to read of the research conducted.}.

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