How Sea Urchins Are Factoring Into the Fight to Save Coral Reef in the Caribbean
Sea urchins graze on and clean a type of algae that competes with coral, and their decimation is a big reason for the decline of the coral reef ecosystem in the Caribbean.
Sea urchins play an important role in the ocean’s ecosystems, but scientists say their numbers have dwindled drastically since the 1980s when a mysterious disease struck.
"It came likely came through the mouth of the Panama Canal, and within a few years had spread sort of throughout the entire Caribbean and wiped out 95% of the urchin populations, one of the biggest mass mortality events that really has been recorded in marine animals," University of Florida Professor Josh Patterson said.
Patterson said sea urchins graze on and clean a type of algae that competes with coral, and their decimation is a big reason for the decline of the coral reef ecosystem in the Caribbean.
But Patterson and his team are trying to get their numbers back up by cultivating urchins on land and then releasing them into the sea.
"It's extremely ambitious to think that, that we could get these urchins back to these really high densities that they were at," he said.
"But if we were able to do that, I would certainly feel comfortable saying that it would help the reefs recover."
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