The Times: Urchins munch their way across California kelp forest

The majestic vistas of the northern Californian coastline conceal an underwater slaughter that is troubling scientists and endangering local fishermen.

Over the past five years an army of small purple sea urchins has overrun and devoured almost all the giant kelp forests that clung to the shoreline, with devastating consequences for two of the region’s most prized seafood catches.

Bull kelp forests are the marine equivalent of the towering redwood trees that form the classic inland northern Californian scene. Like trees, these huge expanses of brown seaweed play a vital role in absorbing carbon emissions and provide a critical food and habitat for a wide variety of species.

But since 2013 a sequence of phenomena that scientists have linked to climate change has wiped out…

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