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Why decimated kelp forests affect gray whales, too

Unhealthy kelp forest.
Photo courtesy GEMM Lab, Marine Mammal Institute, Oregon State University.
Unhealthy kelp forest.

There is supposed to be kelp growing on the ocean floor, close to the Oregon coast. But many a kelp forest has been decimated by purple sea urchins, munching away on the leafy greens, with no predators in sight.

It's not a good situation for creatures that depend upon the kelp forests, and it turns out those include gray whales. Less kelp means less whale food, Oregon State University researchers report.

Lisa Hildebrand is the lead author on the recently published paper laying out the findings. Hildebrand, a doctoral candidate, joins us with details.

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The Jefferson Exchange is Jefferson Public Radio's daily news program focused on issues, people and events across Southern Oregon and Northern California. Angela Decker is the program's senior producer, Charlie Zimmermann is the assistant producer, and Geoffrey Riley hosts the show.