The southern sea otter is a keystone species in kelp forest communities, acting to increase the species diversity and providing ecosystem services. Despite federal protection since 1977, the southern sea otter population has struggled to recover and there are only an estimated 2,800 sea otters in California.
Listen to a conversation with Dr. James Estes, Emeritus Professor of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at UCSC. Estes is author of Serendipity: An Ecologist’s Quest to Understand Nature and appears in “The Serengeti Rules,” a 2019 film about “five unsung heroes of modern ecology,” of which he is one. Of course, Jim is best known for his research on California sea otters, once almost wiped out, then recovered and now again threatened by marine toxins, disease, orcas and agricultural chemical runoff.
More information is available on the Tinker & Estes Lab’s web page.
Sustainability Now! is underwritten by the Sustainable Systems Research Foundation.