The kelp forest is one of the most productive ocean ecosystems on Earth, supporting a greater diversity of plants and animals than almost any other marine habitat. Giant kelp and bull kelp also play an important role in protecting coastal areas in California, Oregon, and Washington—for example, by mitigating the effects of climate change and improving water quality—and helping to sustain the fishing and tourism economy.
Along the West Coast, however, bull kelp has been decimated as warming ocean waters led to an outbreak of sea star wasting disease that all but eliminated this crucial purple urchin predator. As a result, the urchin population exploded and consumed vast swaths of the kelp forest. In the past six years, more than 90% of the bull kelp in Northern California has disappeared.
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