Can Animals Impact the Carbon Cycle?

A new study indicates that sea otters’ taste for sea urchins can in turn allow for an increased population of kelp which can help draw down CO2.

The press release says “They estimate that the CO2 removed from the atmosphere via the otter-kelp link could be worth between $205 million and $408 million on the European Carbon Exchange.” It does not emphasize that is very small compared to the carbon problem. We shouldn’t be imagining deployment of vast armies of sea otters to save us from our follies.

In the grand scheme of things the impact of this one species is small, but in a world where carbon credits are traded, this could be a mechanism for funding coservation. Turned on its head in this way, the study is good news, at least for sea otters:

“An alluring idea,” they write, would be to sell the carbon indirectly sequestered by the sea otter protected kelp forest “as a way to pay for their reintroduction and management or to compensate losses to shell fisheries from sea otter predation.”


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