Marine ecosystems change over time, and these changes are driven by multiple factors. Baseline monitoring at or near the time of MPA implementation is a critical first step and provides an important reference of ecological and socioeconomic conditions in the region.

Beginning in 2011, academic, agency, and citizen scientists, fishermen, and volunteers, gathered baseline data in the region. By studying a range of ecosystems, from rocky shores and kelp forests to deep reefs, researchers documented patterns in marine life populations and communities throughout the South Coast region. These ecological patterns, together with patterns of human activities, create the first region-wide benchmark of ecological and socioeconomic conditions for examining future changes.


Key Highlights from Baseline Monitoring

  • The state-funded ten projects, which together covered the region and described important ecosystem types and species found in the South Coast, produced peer-reviewed technical reports, and delivered 143 publicly accessible data packages.
  • The results of many of these projects are provided in technical reports, and many are summarized in a series of Snapshot Reports, available here.


Human Activities in the South Coast

As a part of South Coast MPA baseline monitoring, Point 97/Ecotrust conducted a region–wide analysis of coastal recreation, commercial fishing, and CPFV activity. In addition, CDFW also analyzed commercial and recreational fishing records from the South Coast. Consumptive and non-consumptive uses were analyzed, including coastal recreation, commercial and recreational fisheries. For resources on Human Activities, click here


Connections Among Ecosystems in the South Coast 

South Coast ecosystems influence each other in a number of important ways. For example, kelp forests support beach ecosystems through the distribution of “wrack” on beaches. Seabirds also act as important links among ecosystems, by eating fish from kelp forests and nearshore pelagic waters, and nesting and roosting on sandy beaches, rocky outcroppings, and coastal cliffs along the mainland and Channel Islands. Explore the Sandy Beach Snapshot Report for specific examples of ecosystem connectivity. 


Patterns of Biodiversity

Prior to baseline monitoring, five ecologically and geographically distinct regions in the South Coast—called bioregions—were identified. Analyses of baseline data collected in rocky intertidal and kelp and shallow rock ecosystems revealed unique community groups consistent with these bioregions. The various communities were shaped by a variety of physical factors, including water temperature. The strong water temperature gradient in the South Coast, driven by the convergence of warm and cool currents, is a well-known driver of species distributions, including those in rocky intertidal and kelp and shallow rock ecosystems. Explore the Rocky Intertidal Snapshot Report for specific examples of patterns of biodiversity. 


Broadening Participation & Sources of Knowledge

California is committed to broadening participation and incorporating multiple sources of knowledge into MPA monitoring. This can include work with local experts and citizen scientists, collaborative fisheries research, and traditional knowledge—all of which can enhance our understanding of historical and current ocean conditions. The following groups, among others, contributed to this reporting. See our Collaborators section for a full list of contributors to the State of the California South Coast. 










Exploring Initial Changes

Data from temperate ecosystems globally and in California suggest that most ecological changes happen slowly. By comparison, change in human uses such as geographic patterns of commercial fishing or landings from CPFVs can be more readily observable over a shorter period. The State of the California South Coast report documents socioeconomic and ecological changes, including commercial and recreational fishing and effects at the northern Channel Islands and in rocky intertidal ecosystems


Human Activities Resources


Sandy Beach Ecosystems Resources


Seabirds Resources


Rocky Intertidal Ecosystems Resources


California Spiny Lobster Resources


Kelp and Shallow Rock Ecosystems Resources


Soft-bottom subtidal, Mid-depth rock, and Deep Ecosystems Resources


Broadening Participation and Sources of Knowledge Resources


Exploring Changes Resources


Photo credit: Michelle Hoalton