Questions for “Urchin takeover underlies California’s vanishing kelp forests”

urchin barren

Proliferating sea urchins, such has these off northern California, have destroyed kelp forest all along the state’s coast.

Katie Sowul/CDFW

To accompany “Urchin takeover underlies California’s vanishing kelp forests


Before Reading:

1.  How does an ecosystem differ from a community of plants or animals that all belong to the same species?

During Reading:

1.  Why do ecologists refer to communities of California’s big kelp as forests? How have these communities been doing in recent years?

2.  What two environmental assaults recently started an unraveling of the kelp forest ecosystem?

3.  What is the role of sea urchins in the disappearance of kelp forests?

4.  How do conditions in California’s more southerly kelp forests make their ecosystem better able to weather the urchin assaults?

5.  What role do otters play in a healthy kelp forest ecosystem?

6.  What are “zombie” urchins and why don’t otters like them?

7.  What can be a challenge to bringing back otters to kelp forests where urchins have taken over?

After Reading:

1.  From what you have read, what are the major players in a healthy California’ kelp-forest ecosystem? They are not, however, the only players. Do some research on kelp forests (here is one resource to get you started). Beyond looking like majestic underwater redwoods, as Joshua Smith likened them, what other benefits do kelp forests provide that would justify trying to save them?