Urchin Slayers Attempt to Save Underfor Rainforest

This story is original appeared in wrist and about Climate Desk cooperation.

Grant Downie was out of the Pacific Ocean about 10 minutes in when he realized he could no longer see from his right eye.

The second -generation commercial diver went deeper under the waves than the usual find he found: red sea urchins valued by restaurateurs for their uni, or layer-grade gonads. But red urchins, which live in submarine forests, have been especially spotted in recent years. And each extra foot of depth forces more nitrogen into his bloodstream, raising his risk for dangerous bubbles present in his body or brain.

This time, in the middle of his vision of a black wall, he was afraid he would eventually push his body. Although his right eye recovered from its operation 20 minutes later, the 33-year-old insisted he was done with the risk dive, even if the decision would stop his income.

“I knew it was for me,” Downie said in March, about seven months after the incident, which happened on the beach at Fort Bragg in Northern California. “I’ll probably leave at 65 feet, but I don’t know if I’m going to do that deep, deep edge. It’s getting harder for men who are still trying to go. ”

Anyone who relies on California’s kelp forests for their livelihood can tell you that there is something very wrong under the Pacific ocean. Not only is the red urchin population in decline. Gone are most of the plants, the thick, tons of marine plants that once provided food, shelter, and safe haven to hundreds of marine species-from sea otters to abalone, rockfish. up to the starry stars. Where the fluffy threads of giant guards or like the whipped bull pillow have been sunk in the past, entire underwater graves have been destroyed by a particular predator: the purple urchin.

People sometimes refer to purple urchins as “zombies” in the sea – a result of their strange hunger and difficult skill to survive. (They can live in “hungry” mode for years.) Wearing spiky, baseball-sized pom-poms, purple urchins is everything, wasting everything from plankton to dead fish. But they are more inclined to raw, and they can chew through holdfast anchors every inch of the sea.

The resulting “urchin barrens,” as divers call them, could reach hundreds of miles, with scientists reporting earlier this year that some kalps in Northern California are suffer 95 percent loss from 2012.

Kelp is key to much of the West Coast’s ocean biodiversity. Like terrestrial forests, kelp (a technical type of brown algae) is a significant carbon sink, producing sun and carbon dioxide leaves and canopies. But unlike trees, which return most of the carbon to the atmosphere by its decomposition, dead poison there is potential to sink under the sea, gives a natural form of sequestration. Due to the devastation of forests of nubs and hungry urchins waiting for the light of the sea, that cycle was severely disrupted.

“Loss of very important systems, which means loss of fishing, loss of recreational opportunities, loss of carbon sequestration, loss of coastal protection,” said Fiorenza Micheli, a marine ecologist and codirector of Stanford’s Center for Ocean Solutions. “It’s akin to losing a forest – unless we can’t see it.”

Parts of the West Coast look like a 10,000 percent increase of purple urchins for a five -year period. Numerous numbers of “purps,” as commercial divers call them, are rocking coastal communities in California and southern Oregon. As a result, many weed enthusiasts – commercial fishermen, recreation enthusiasts, scuba divers, and scientists, to name a few – are increasingly desperate to get rid of the purple sea urchin infestation on their own. hands, always armed with hammers and dive knives.

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