Sunflower Sea Stars Could Save Ocean Kelp Forests on West Coast: Study

  • Kelp forests, one of the most diverse ocean ecosystems, are dying along North America’s West Coast.
  • A new study says recovering sunflower sea star populations could save the forests.
  • The sea stars are voracious predators that feed on urchins and help keep the ecosystem in balance.

The kelp forests found along much of the West Coast of North America are dying, but scientists think returning a once-abundant predator to the underwater ocean ecosystems could save them.

Populations of sunflower sea stars, or Pycnopodia helianthoides, have rapidly collapsed since 2013, in part due to a disease called sea star wasting syndrome that may have been worsened by warming ocean temperatures.

As the sea stars have disappeared, some of its prey has flourished. Populations of sea urchins, which feast on kelp, have since exploded, and the underwater forests have in turn been decimated. The authors of a new paper suggest the loss of the sunflower sea stars is to blame.

The study, published last month in the Royal Society, says recovering the sea star populations, either through natural means or reintroduction facilitated by humans, could control the urchin population and restore the kelp forests.

Kelp forests support a higher diversity of plants and animals than nearly every other ecosystem in the ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Animals that rely on the dense vegetation for protection from predators or storms include seals and sea lions, whales, otters, and birds, among others.

Meet the sunflower sea stars that scientists say could save them.

Source link

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply
Enable registration in settings - general
Shopping cart