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Purple Urchin on Kelp
Strongylocentrotus purpuratus


Carmel, CA, USA




Purple urchins are a native species to California's kelp forests and eat drift algae that fall from the canopy. However, as climate change alters their environment, kelp and urchin predators begin to disappear, and urchins leave their cracks and crevices to eat live kelp to survive. The urchins will even climb up kelp to eat it, as seen here. The result is a change in the ecosystem from a kelp forest to an urchin barren, with the roofscape dominated by the spiky invertebrates. While it's easy to blame the urchin for the loss of California's kelp forests, ultimately it is climate change driving these shifts, and the responsibility of humankind to curb our impacts.

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Kate Vylet
Underwater photographer/videographer and scientific diver
Learn more about Kate Vylet.

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