Starting in 2007, California Sea Grant partnered with the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to administer research project funding for baseline monitoring of MPA’s. These projects aimed to establish an integrated snapshot of marine ecosystems and human activities around the time of the establishment of the new MPAs and to document initial socioeconomic and ecological changes after the MPAs take effect.
The South Coast was the third region to be studied as part of the MPA Baseline Monitoring Program. The projects ran from 2011 to 2017.
Update July 2019
Final reports, management review, data, and long-term monitoring plans are available:
State of the California South Coast: Results from Baseline Monitoring of Marine Protected Areas 2011-2017 (PDF)
CDFW South Coast Management Review 2017 (PDF)
South Coast MPA Monitoring Plan 2011 (PDF)
OPC Open Data Portal
Project Descriptions: South Coast MPA Baseline Monitoring Program
Citizen Science SCUBA Baseline Characterization of Kelp Forest Ecosystems by Reef Check California
Baseline Characterization of Rocky Intertidal Ecosystems
Baseline Characterization of Sandy Beach Ecosystems
Baseline Characterization of California Spiny Lobsters
Baseline ROV Surveys of Subtidal Ecosystems
Baseline Characterization of Kelp & Shallow Rock Ecosystems
Baseline Characterization of Nearshore and Estuarine Seabirds
Baseline Characterization of Human Uses
Nearshore Substrate Mapping Using Multi-Spectral Aerial Imagery
Integrative Assessment of Baseline Conditions
Jan Freiwald and Gregor Hodgson, Reef Check California Program
In the Citizen Science SCUBA baseline project, citizen scientists and staff in the Reef Check California Program conducted SCUBA‐based surveys of the South Coast MPAs and reference sites to provide a quantitative assessment of rocky reefs and kelp forests.
Divers estimated density, population size, diversity, trophic structure, and biological habitat availability for key fish, invertebrate, and algae species. Researchers also drew on Reef Check California’s existing dataset to provide historical context for ongoing data collection. Data collected as part of this project were used to make recommendations for long-term monitoring. The project also built capacity for cost-effective long-term monitoring through a community network of citizen scientists.
Carol Blanchette, UC Santa Barbara, Pete Raimondi, UC Santa Cruz, Jennifer Burnaford and Jayson Smith, Cal State Fullerton and Julie Bursek, NOAA’s Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
The Baseline Characterization of Rocky Intertidal Ecosystems project is a collaboration between researchers at UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz, California State University Fullerton, Cal Poly Pomona, and the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.
The goals of this project were to:
- produce a quantitative baseline characterization of the structure of rocky intertidal ecosystems in all of the South Coast MPAs that have accessible rocky intertidal; and
- provide a quantitative comparison between the rocky intertidal ecosystems in these MPAs and associated reference areas in the South coast region using a combination of biodiversity surveys and targeted species sampling.
Researchers analytically explored the baseline characterizations for potential indicators of the state of the rocky intertidal ecosystems using newly collected data along with historical and contextual data from the region; evaluated the suitability of proposed draft metrics and other metrics for long term monitoring; and assessed initial changes in size and abundance of targeted species across newly created MPAs, existing MPAs and reference areas.
Jenifer E. Dugan and Henry Page, UC Santa Barbara, Karina J. Nielsen, Sonoma State University and Julie Bursek, NOAA's Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
Sandy beaches and their adjacent surf zones provide important habitat and prey resources for birds, wildlife and fish that feed on the abundant intertidal and subtidal invertebrates in the beach food web. Beach ecosystem functions also include water filtering, nutrient cycling, and accumulating and storing sand that can buffer the impacts of storm waves and surges. Beach ecosystems are also highly valued and intensively used for recreation including beachcombing, jogging, sunbathing, surfing, swimming, birding and wildlife viewing, picnicking, dog-walking, and volleyball, frisbee and other sports, as well as shore-based fishing, clamming and bait collection.
Sandy beach ecosystems are strongly linked with other nearshore ecosystems. For example, beach food webs rely largely on subsidies from adjacent ecosystems, thus the amount of wrack and plankton delivered to these food webs is dynamically linked to the features of adjacent ecosystems and nearshore ocean characteristics. The condition of beach ecosystems can in turn affect the reproductive success of beach-nesting fishes and birds. Measuring and monitoring these trophic linkages on sandy beaches will help us assess direct and indirect effects of MPAs in the south coast region.
The Baseline Characterization of Sandy Beach Ecosystems project was led by scientists at the Marine Science Institute at the University of California Santa Barbara with collaborators from Sonoma State University, Romberg Tiburon Center at San Francisco State University, and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. In this project, scientists identified and measured important linkages between sandy beaches and other nearshore ecosystems to produce a comprehensive baseline characterization of sandy beach ecosystems in the South Coast region. This quantitative baseline will be used to evaluate future changes in important ecological features of sandy beaches and linkages with other nearshore ecosystems.
The project team surveyed a number of pairs of MPAs and adjacent reference beaches on the mainland coast from Gaviota to San Diego over 2 years. These results were used to investigate potential indicators of ecosystem conditions that can be applied to increase our understanding of how the condition of sandy beach ecosystems may provide insights on the condition and functioning of MPAs in the South Coast MPA network. The project team also developed and tested new protocols for potential use in long-term monitoring of beach ecosystem features involving citizen-scientists.
Kevin Hovel, San Diego State University, Ed Parnell, UC San Diego and Doug Neilson, California Department of Fish and Game
The Baseline Characterization of Spiny Lobsters project is a collaboration between researchers and volunteers at California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, San Diego State University, and the San Diego Oceans Foundation. In this project, scientists, stakeholders, managers, and volunteers formed a partnership to generate information on baseline levels of abundance, size distribution, behavior, and consumptive use of one of California’s most valuable fishery species, the California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus).
Over the course of this project, researchers focused on:
- quantifying lobster density inside and outside MPAs in San Diego and Orange Counties;
- linking lobster density and distribution to habitat features;
- quantifying and characterizing lobster movement behavior;
- using lobster catch records from stakeholders and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to determine landings and catch per unit effort(CPUE); and
- documenting short-term changes in fishing effort and efficiency due to MPA establishment.
A key component of this project was a collaboration with lobster fishermen from San Diego, Laguna Beach, and Palos Verdes to implement a tag-recapture program to generate estimates of lobster abundance at large spatial scales as well as size distribution and rates of movement across MPA boundaries (spillover). The tag-recapture program was paired with SCUBA-based dive surveys by scientists and students to provide independent estimates of lobster abundance and habitat use.
James Lindholm, Cal State Monterey Bay and Dirk Rosen, Marine Applied Research and Exploration
The Baseline ROV Surveys of Subtidal Ecosystems project is a collaboration between researchers at the Institute for Applied Marine Ecology (IfAME) at California State University Monterey Bay, Marine Applied Research and Exploration (MARE), and Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. In this project, researchers used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to “fly” half a meter above the seafloor at depths ranging from 20 – 500 meters. The ROV took video and still images that were used to characterize these deep-sea communities.
Researchers identified, counted, and sized fishes and invertebrates in both soft-bottom and rocky habitats. On-going analyses of the data collected during the baseline period include the vertical distribution of fishes and invertebrates in the La Jolla Canyons, the interaction of depth and substrate in structuring communities on the continental shelf across the region, and the habitat associations of spot and ridgeback prawns. The data collected as part of this project provides a baseline characterization of selected MPAs and reference sites, an assessment of initial changes following MPA implementation, and recommendations for future monitoring efforts in the region.
Daniel J. Pondella, Vantuna Research Group, Occidental College and Jennifer Caselle, UC Santa Barbara
The Baseline Characterization of Kelp and Shallow Rock Ecosystems project is a collaboration between researchers at Vantuna Research Group at Occidental College and the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans (PISCO) at the University of California Santa Barbara. In this project, researchers characterized kelp and shallow rock ecosystems inside and outside MPAs in the South Coast region. The baseline surveys, together with historical and future data, are enabling scientists to measure changes in species and communities over both short and long time scales.
From 2011-2013, SCUBA divers surveyed kelp forests and associated reference sites to estimate fish, kelp and benthic invertebrate densities, fish size distributions, and percent cover of invertebrates and algae to produce a quantitative baseline characterization of the structure of kelp and shallow rock ecosystems in the South Coast. Kelp and shallow rock ecosystems inside the MPAs were compared with associated reference areas outside MPAs.
Surveys were conducted using methods developed by PISCO and the Cooperative Research and Assessment of Nearshore Ecosystems (CRANE) program, which allowed integration of historical, long-term datasets into this analysis. As part of this project, researchers also worked to develop easily interpretable ecosystem indicators for assessing the state of kelp forests and made recommendations for future monitoring.
Dan Robinette and Jaime Jahncke, PRBO Conservation Science
MPAs can benefit seabird populations both directly and indirectly. Direct benefits include reduced disturbance to breeding and roosting sites and decreased human interaction (e.g., bycatch, light attraction, gear entanglement) at feeding sites. Indirect benefits include reduced competition with humans for food resources and greater prey supplies resulting from increased prey production.
The overarching goal of the Baseline Characterization of Nearshore and Estuarine Seabirds study was to determine how seabirds are using coastal habitats inside and outside of newly established MPAs in the South Coast region. Researchers focused monitoring efforts on pelagic cormorants, Brandt’s cormorants, western gulls, black oystercatchers, pigeon guillemots, California least terns, and California brown pelicans because of their dependence on nearshore habitats and their susceptibility to human disturbances.
In this project, researchers from Point Blue Conservation Science evaluated seabird use of nearshore habitats for breeding, roosting, and foraging. The study examined foraging in estuarine and nearshore habitats, use of rocky coastlines for roosting, breeding population size and productivity, and disturbance at breeding and roosting sites. The results of this study provide a baseline to aid in future adaptive management of South Coast MPAs.
Astrid Scholz and Charles S. Steinback, Ecotrust and Chris LaFranchi, NaturalEquity
The Baseline Characterization of Human Uses project is a collaboration between researchers at Point97/Ecotrust and NaturalEquity. In this project, researchers developed baseline estimates of the quantity, spatial distribution, and economic value of human uses in the South Coast region of California. The study focused on three categories of human use:
- Coastal recreation: Researchers evaluated coastal recreation and visitation statistics to develop a baseline of coastal recreation use patterns in the region
- Commercial fishing: Researchers developed a baseline characterization of spatial fishing patterns and socioeconomic status of commercial fishermen in the region, assessed initial spatial and economic changes following MPA implementation, and conducted a qualitative investigation into the impact of MPAs on commercial fishermen.
- Commercial passenger fishing vessels (CPFVs): Researchers utilized CPFV logbook data obtained from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to characterize the spatial fishing patterns and economic status of the CPFV fleet in the region, and conducted an assessment of historical economic trends and initial economic changes in the fleet.
- Coastal Recreation Report
- Commercial Fishing Report // Appendix
- Commercial Passenger Fishing Vehicle (CPFV) Report //
Appendix [Available for download in 4 parts due to large file size] Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Jan Svejkovsky, Ocean Imaging Corp.
In the Nearshore Substrate Mapping Using Multi-Spectral Aerial Imagery project, researchers from Ocean Imaging created high-resolution maps for shallow subtidal and intertidal benthic habitats in the South Coast region.
The maps developed in this project depict features such as surfgrass meadows, kelp canopy, algal-covered rock and bare rock habitats. Researchers validated substrate classifications with field data provided by collaborating research teams and new sampling specifically for this project.
Jennifer Caselle and Carol Blanchette, UC Santa Barbara
In the Integrative Assessment of Baseline Conditions project, researchers at University of California Santa Barbara are working to:
- Provide a coordinated approach to monitoring across ecosystem features in the South Coast MPA Baseline Program, so that data can be easily shared and analyzed in a unified framework;
- Ensure a standards-based approach to data and metadata management across projects in the South Coast MPA Baseline Program;
- Facilitate data analysis and synthesis among projects in the South Coast MPA Baseline Program through dedicated workshops and working groups; and
- Produce an integrated dataset and series of data-based products (papers, presentations, outreach materials) among projects in the South Coast MPA Baseline Program that provide a baseline characterization of ecological and socioeconomic conditions of the entire south coast region across ecosystem features and an assessment of initial changes in these conditions within the initial period of baseline monitoring.
This article was updated July 19, 2019