Study: Sea otters promote Calif. estuary health

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Updated: 8/26/2013 2:17 pm

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Researchers say sea otters are more than just a cuddly spectacle at a Central California estuary.

According to a study published on Monday, the animals are indirectly fighting the harmful effects of agricultural runoff as well.

The study by researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz focused on sea otters at Elkhorn Slough, an estuary near Monterey Bay about 75 miles southeast of San Francisco.

Researchers say the sea otters there eat crabs. Crabs prey on animals that clean the estuary's sea grass of algae caused by farm pollution. The otters keep the crab numbers low, allowing the grass to thrive.

The sea grass habitat is important to young salmon, cod, and herring and also plays a big role in sequestering carbon and protecting the shoreline from big waves.

 

©2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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