Last week, scientists from the Nature Conservancy stood on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean near Mendocino, California, watching a drone fly over the water as it mapped the disappearing kelp forests along the coast. Kelp—a type of seaweed that can help fight climate change by sequestering carbon and is critical to marine ecosystems—is dying in part because of an explosion of purple urchins in the area. As the Nature Conservancy maps the remaining kelp to find the best places to intervene, the organization plans to also work with a startup to test a new solution to the problem: harvesting the sea urchins to “ranch” them to make uni, a delicacy often used in sushi. [Photo: Ralph Pace/The Nature Conservancy] “Urchin ranching is part of a larger strategy to reset the ecosystem and prepare kelp to recover,” says Norah Eddy, the associate director of the oceans program at the Nature Conservancy . Around 90% of the kelp along California’s North Coast has been lost over the last decade. The kelp is sensitive to warming water and suffered when a marine heat wave began in the Pacific in 2013. Then a disease killed off sea stars, a predator of sea […]

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