The goal of this project is to characterize kelp and shallow rock ecosystems inside and outside MPAs in the North Central Coast region. The quantitative baseline surveys, together with future surveys, will enable scientists to measure changes in 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 (2010 and 2011) 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). At some survey sites, the size frequency distributions of red abalone and urchins were surveyed in collaboration with Reef Check California (RCCA). 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.