Destruction and recovery of kelp forests driven by changes in sea urchin behavior

A dramatic outbreak of kelp-eating sea urchins along the Central Coast of California in 2014, leading to a significant reduction in the region’s kelp forests, was driven primarily by the emergence of sea urchins from their hiding places rather than an increase in the urchin population. In subsequent years, sea urchin movements enabled kelp forest recovery at sites that had been denuded ‘urchin barrens.’ Those are among the key findings of a long-term study of sea urchins and kelp forest dynamics in Monterey Bay.A dramatic outbreak of kelp-eating sea urchins along the Central Coast of California in 2014, leading to a significant reduction in the region’s kelp forests, was driven primarily by the emergence of sea urchins from their hiding places rather than an increase in the urchin population. In subsequent years, sea urchin movements enabled kelp forest recovery at sites that had been denuded ‘urchin barrens.’ Those are among the key findings of a long-term study of sea urchins and kelp forest dynamics in Monterey Bay.

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