Chapter 2 - Natural History, Ecology, and the Conservation and Management of Sea Otters
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This chapter introduces key aspects of the life history and ecology of sea otters. History—namely their near extinction from overhunting followed by protection and recovery—provides a context for much of what is known about sea otter ecology as well as an important point of reference for key issues having to do with their management and conservation. The species’ unique form and function led to their value as an economically valuable resource during the fur trade, the keystone role they play in the ecology of coastal marine ecosystems, their often extreme human appeal, and the challenges they face as the world’s smallest fully marine mammal. Although the sea otter is just one of the millions of species that deserve attention in the endeavor of biodiversity conservation, they highlight a number of issues that are central to achieving that goal.

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