The Smithsonian: Could eating sea urchins help revive kelp forests?
B-movie screenwriters could hardly have produced a campier story: the world turns to dust as an army of tiny, pincushion-like invaders ever so slowly takes over. They devour whatever lies in their path, then live on for decades without eating. The ecosystem collapses, and while humanity despairs, a few bright scientists hatch a plan to save the day.
But fact can be as strange as science fiction and this zany plot is unfolding around the world as sea urchins proliferate. In places such as Tasmania, Japan, Norway, Canada, and California, urchins are mowing down seaweed, including giant kelp. In the bleak, sometimes almost lifeless environments that result, the seafloor is carpeted with urchins. And though they prefer seaweed, urchins will resort to gnawing on the coralline algae that encrusts many underwater rocks, emptying abalone shells, and even cannibalizing one another if there is nothing better to eat.