The coastal zones of the Aleutian Archipelago have undergone dramatic changes in the past 50 years due to declines in sea otters populations. The widespread loss of sea otters from the region has resulted in a dramatic increase in sea urchin (sea otter prey) abundance and a corresponding loss of kelp forests (sea urchin food source), known as a trophic cascade. While the Aleutian coastal habitats are now dominated by urchin barrens, small patchy kelp forests persist in some areas. This patchwork mosaic provides excellent opportunities for comparison between these two habitats.
For the duration of this project we will be conducting subtidal research along the shores of the Alaskan Maritime National Wildlife Refuge of the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Aleutian Islands