Featured Image Source: SunflowerStar.com
The sunflower sea star population of the coast of Big Sur California has been on the decline for the last six years. The decline started around 6 years ago, and now the sea stars have all but disappeared from the ecosystem entirely. Their disappearance has lead to the rise of another species – sea urchins.
The sea stars started to decline in earnest in 2015, which coincided with significant warming in the ocean. Although scientists have been unable to pinpoint the exact reason for the decline of sea stars, their presence was an integral part of the ecosystem.
Scientists recently performed a study to highlight the decline of this important species and bring attention in hopes of an endangered species classification in the near future.
With the sea star predators out of the picture, their sea urchin prey population exploded. The sea urchins are aggressively eating everything in sight. Particularly, they love eating bull kelp, which can destroy the entire kelp forest. The kelp forests support nurseries of young sea creatures that need the protection of the forest to grow up successfully.
It is unclear how the wildlife managers can help to regrow the sea star population but researchers are working to solve those problems. Hopefully, they will find a solution in the near future that will restore balance to this ecosystem.
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