Nearshore Pelagic Ecosystems (>30m)



Nearshore pelagic ecosystems are defined for MPA monitoring as the water column overlaying the continental shelf in Califonia’s waters at depths greater than 30 meters. Upwelling zones and retention areas are key oceanographic features, where the cool California Current plays a large role in shaping this ecosystem. Increases in nutrients associated with upwelling and retention supports a pelagic food web that includes phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish such as widow rockfish and shortbelly rockfish, seabirds such as Brandt’s cormorant and common murre, and marine mammal predators.



Many of the fish, seabird, and marine mammal species that are characteristic of this ecosystem are transient and have a large range. These include slow growing rockfishes that take a long time to reach sexual maturity. Potential MPA-related population recoveries for these species are likely to take many years to detect. The processes structuring nearshore pelagic ecosystems frequently occur on spatial scales much larger than the adopted MPAs, and indeed much larger than the region as a whole.