The goal of this project is to characterize kelp and shallow rock ecosystems inside and outside MPAs in the Central Coast region. The quantitative baseline surveys, together with historical and future data, will enable scientists to measure changes in kelp forest species and communities over both short and long time scales. Scientists conducted baseline surveys of kelp forests in MPAs and associated reference sites for two years (2007 and 2008) in order to estimate fish, kelp and benthic invertebrate densities, fish size distributions and percent cover of smaller invertebrates and algae using survey methods developed by the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO). These surveys complement data collected by PISCO at core Central Coast sites from 1999 to 2011. As part of this project, researchers will also work to develop easily interpretable ecosystem indicators for assessing the state of kelp forests and make recommendations for future monitoring.