Key Findings

 

The scientific data gathered and analyses conducted during South Coast MPA baseline monitoring add up to a detailed picture of ocean conditions in the region. This scientific benchmark provides a foundation for rigorous science-informed decisions for our coast and ocean, including MPA, fisheries, and water quality management and climate change adaptation.

 

Network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs)

In 2012, 50 MPAs and two special closures were implemented in the South Coast region, including new MPAs and pre-existing MPAs at the Channel Islands and mainland, some of which had their boundaries or take regulations modified. Scientists, fishermen, California Native American tribes, industry representatives, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), managers, and others participated in a unique, collaborative, and science based public planning process to design and implement these MPAs.

 

Invaluable Benchmark of Conditions

The scientific data gathered and analyses conducted during South Coast MPA baseline monitoring add up to a detailed picture of ocean conditions in the region. This scientific benchmark provides a foundation for rigorous science-informed decisions for our coast and ocean, including MPA, fisheries, and water quality management and climate change adaptation.

 

Broadened Sources of Knowledge

The work summarized in this report represents partnerships among more than 40 academic institutions, state and federal agencies, coastal California Native American tribes, non-profit organizations, fishing groups, and citizen science groups. See our Collaborators section for a full list.

 

Science to Support Management

 
Tracking Changing Ocean Conditions

Monitoring can inform ocean management beyond adaptive management of MPAs. For example, the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project’s (SCCWRP) Bight ‘13 Regional Monitoring Program represented an important collaboration between MPA and water quality monitoring efforts. Continued collaboration with water quality and climate change managers will be key to identifying opportunities to leverage resources, capacity, and expertise.

 
Understanding & Responding to Unexpected Events

Sea Star Wasting Rocky intertidal baseline monitoring researchers expanded their sampling to include new locations after observing diseased sea stars in early 2014. By May, sea star populations at many sites across the United States West Coast were at or near zero. Continued data collection has shown recruitment of juvenile sea stars in the South Coast, a hopeful sign that populations could recover.

Refugio Oil Spill In 2015, over 100,000 gallons of crude oil was released from a ruptured pipeline near Refugio State Beach in Santa Barbara County. Baseline data provided information about conditions at and near Refugio State Beach before the spill and are being used to help assess the impacts that occurred to marine ecosystems in the area. Continued monitoring will be key to tracking the recovery of coastal and ocean habitats in the area.

 

A Comprehensive View of the South Coast

 
Discovering the Unknown

Through baseline monitoring, researchers were able to:

  • Explore and characterize new locations in rarely-monitored South Coast deep, canyon, and sandy beach ecosystems.
  • Improve our understanding of ecologically and economically important species like the California spiny lobster, and protected species like the endangered California Least Tern.
 
Revealing Unique & Diverse Communities

The South Coast is distinguished by abundant and varied marine life, with community structure driven by a strong water temperature gradient. Researchers identified and characterized the following distinct communities, each with a particular composition of species:

  • 17 kelp and shallow rock communities
  • 9 rocky intertidal mobile invertebrate communities
  • 14 rocky intertidal sessile invertebrate communities
 
Connected Ecosystems

Baseline research illuminated the many ways that coastal and marine ecosystems in the South Coast are connected:

  • Kelp, other algae, and seagrass wash onto sandy beaches, forming wrack that supports abundant and diverse populations of macroinvertebrates and shorebirds.
  • Estuarine and pelagic seabirds rely on different ecosystems— including estuaries, beaches, kelp forests, and nearshore pelagic—for activities such as breeding, feeding, and roosting.
 
Older MPAs Show Positive Trends

Consistent with other regions, marine communities are responding to older MPAs:

  • Biomass of targeted fish species has increased in kelp and shallow rock ecosystems inside and outside of the northern Channel Islands MPAs (established in 2003).
  • Biodiversity in rocky intertidal ecosystems is significantly higher in “old” MPAs (established before 2012) than outside, while “new” MPAs show intermediate and highly variable biodiversity.

 

Looking Forward—Leveraging Existing Capacity

As the state transitions from baseline to long-term monitoring, the South Coast Monitoring Survey provides a detailed picture of the current monitoring capacity in the region. Results from the survey identified the geographic and temporal coverage of monitoring activities inside and outside of South Coast MPAs, and the alignment of those activities with the State's MPA monitoring priorities. Results of the South Coast Monitoring Survey are publicly available in the interactive California Coastal Monitoring Dashboard.

 

Learn More

 

Photo Credit: Jim Kirklin