Source: University of California
Scientists studying the decline and recovery of seagrass beds in one of California’s largest estuaries have found that recolonization of the estuary by sea otters was a crucial factor in the seagrass comeback. Led by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, the study will be published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of August 26.
Seagrass meadows, which provide coastal protection and important habitat for fish, are declining worldwide, partly because of excessive nutrients entering coastal waters in runoff from farms and urban areas. The nutrients spur the growth of algae on seagrass leaves, which then don’t get enough sunlight. In Elkhorn Slough, a major estuary on California’s central coast, algal blooms caused by high nutrient levels are a recurring problem. Yet the seagrass beds there have been expanding in recent years.