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An Otter Solution For Global Warming

Ever since Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth," categorized him as the Father of Global Warming, opposing viewpoints abound as to whether or not the Earth is any kind of real jeopardy? Our current presidential election battle has one candidate slamming the other for trying to "slow the rise of the oceans. . . and healing the planet," while others point to our reliance on fossils fuels and the build up of greenhouse gases as the beginning of the end.

One unsuspecting solution that might have a big influence on the carbon cycle is the sea otter. A new research study at the University of California-Santa Cruz  has revealed that sea otters play a big role in the activities of sea urchins and their predilection for kelp forests.

A thriving sea otter population can keep sea urchins in check which in turn will allow kelp forests to prosper.  The subsequent spreading kelp can then absorb as much as 12 times the amount of CO2 from the atmosphere when it is not consumed by the ravenous sea urchins.

University professors, Chris Wilmers and James Estes have combined 40 years of data on otters and kelp bloom from Vancouver Island to the western edge of Alaska's Aleutian Islands. His research team found that otters "undoubtedly have a strong influence" on the cycle of CO2 storage.

Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and scientists are more than 90% certain that it is primarily caused by increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases produced by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.

Comparing kelp density with otters and kelp density without otters, they found that "sea otters have a positive indirect effect on kelp biomass by preying on sea urchins, a kelp grazer." When otters are around, sea urchins hide in crevices and eat kelp scraps. With no otters around, they graze voraciously on living kelp.

The irony of these findings is that up till now, animals have been dismissed as an aid in curbing global warming. Wilmers stated, "right now, all the climate change models and proposed methods of sequestering carbon ignore animals. But animals the world over, working in different ways to influence the carbon cycle, might actually have a large impact."

The researchers admitted that increasing the otter population will not totally solve the increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere but said it is important to know the effects animals can have on the atmosphere.

"If ecologists can get a better handle on what these impacts are, there might be opportunities for win-win conservation scenarios, whereby animal species are protected or enhances, and carbon gets sequestered," Wilmers said.

The full study will be released in the October issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. Maybe then Mr. Romney can blame the sea otters along with Barack Obama in wanting to slow the rise of the oceans to help save the planet.


Ron Callari
PetsLady.com

Comments
Sep 10, 2012
by Anonymous
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Ron, I've read enough

Ron, I've read enough critiques about Gore's book to believe that it does not belong in any nonfiction section, anywhere. Otherwise, enjoyed reading this post ... until your last paragraph, that is. Gee, who woulda thunk a story about sea otters and kelp could turn into a political commentary?

Curt Miller

Sep 10, 2012
by Anonymous
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What a stupid comment by

What a stupid comment by Curt Miller. It's not Ron who has made conservation a political issue, it's politicians who have turned SCIENCE into a political issue. By the way, why don't you read Gore's book instead of reading 'critiques' about it? Or why don't you read the SCIENCE itself?

Sep 10, 2012
by Anonymous
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The fastest mitigation to

The fastest mitigation to climate change is to severely reduce consumption of animal foods. About 1/2 of human induced warming is attributable to animal agriculture. Methane is 24 times more potent than CO2 and takes only 7 years to cycle out of the atmosphere. CO2 takes around 100 years to come out. Human pursuit of animal protein is the leading cause of methane release and a primary cause of CO2 concentrating in the atmosphere. Check the facts and act!

"As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease." Worldwatch Institute, "Is Meat Sustainable?"

"The livestock sector emerges as one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency." UN Food and Agricultural Organization's report "Livestock's Long Shadow"

“If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains... the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.” Environmental Defense Fund

Why would someone choose to be vegan? To slow global warming for one! Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." ~ Albert Einstein

Sep 11, 2012
by Anonymous
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Why do vegans conveniently

Why do vegans conveniently choose to ignore the fact that if it were not for the "human pursuit of animal protein," there would not BE any humans living today - our ancestors would have gone extinct like ancient herbivorous hominids including Australopithecus Robustus. When our ancestors began to eat animal meat, marrow and brains, the enhanced energy they acquired enabled them to grow big brains of their own, make better tools and eventually build civilizations.

Ever looked at your teeth? Those aren't the teeth of a plant-eater, sorry to say. Instead of ignoring basic human needs hard-wired into our DNA, vegans should investigate more eco-friendly ways of raising food animals and/or growing animal protein in the lab.

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