Biological Hotspots Under Threat: Quantifying Climate Impacts to California’s Marine Ecosystems and Coastal Communities

Project Number
Project Date Range
Funding Agency
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
Focus Area(s)
Resilient Coastal Communities and Economies




There is an urgent need to understand how managed and protected marine species will shift their distributions as climate change intensifies. This project will focus on how habitat hotspots of highly migratory marine predators and their prey interact with human uses of the ocean, which will be critical to supporting a viable blue economy in California. 



With the third largest coastline in the U.S., California’s coastal counties and ports generate approximately 80% of the state’s gross domestic product through resource extraction, tourism, recreation and marine transportation. As climate change intensifies and increases the frequency and severity of extreme events, coastal communities are likely to face a greater frequency of economic disruptions via fishery stock declines and closures, impacts to coastal tourism, degradation of marine ecosystems and more. Identifying marine hotspots could prove an effective strategy to build a sustainable future for California by fostering a healthy and resilient ocean. 

Using a mix of existing and new species distribution models, researchers will identify habitat hotspots of humpback whales, blue whales, leatherback sea turtles, anchovy, krill, and pyrosomes,and will quantify the persistence of single species and predator-prey habitat hotspots. The team will assess potential areas of conflict between hotspots and ocean users and communicate results with a wide range of collaborators.

The ability to identify and predict the locations of these hotspots will provide managers and communities with a conservation tool to effectively preserve the ecosystem goods and services provided by marine ecosystems, reduce negative interactions between humans and predators, and help sustain a productive blue economy and healthy marine ecosystem in the face of climate change.

Community Mentors: Elliott Hazen (NOAA), Nerea Lezama-Ochoa (NOAA), Heather Welch (NOAA), Steven Bograd (NOAA), Jarrod Santora (NOAA), Jonathan Hicken (Seymour Marine Discovery Center)


Principal Investigators
Roxanne Beltran
University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)
Co-principal Investigators
Danial Palance
University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)