Sea otters are an iconic species, representing the beauty and diversity of marine life found along California’s coastline. They’re also considered a keystone species because of their critical importance to the health and stability of the nearshore marine ecosystem. They eat sea urchins and other invertebrates that graze on giant kelp. Without sea otters, these grazing animals can destroy kelp forests and consequently the wide diversity of animals that depend upon kelp habitat for survival. Additionally, kelp forests protect coastlines from storm surge and absorb vast amounts of harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Sea otters are also considered a sentinel species because their health reflects that of California’s coastal waters.