Evaluating the performance of California’s MPA network through the lens of sandy beach and surf zone ecosystems

Project Number
Project Date Range
Funding Agency
California Ocean Protection Council (OPC)
Focus Area(s)
Healthy Coastal Ecosystems

Sandy beaches and their associated surf zones are significant components of California’s coastline. These dynamic ecosystems host a diversity of native species, including fish, invertebrates, and birds. Their rich and productive food webs support a variety of wildlife species, such as birds and marine mammals. Sandy beaches are ecologically linked to offshore ecosystems, especially kelp forests and shallow rocky reefs, meaning that MPAs may help beach ecosystems through their effects on kelp forests. Beaches and surf zones are heavily used by millions of Californians each year for recreation, including surf fishing, and surf zone fish populations may respond directly to MPAs.

In this project, researchers will conduct surveys of birds and stranded kelp, beach seines and surf zone video sampling to collect key biological and environmental data, as well as measure physical characteristics of beach and surf zones, and human uses.  To evaluate direct and indirect effects of MPAs on beaches and surf zones, they will compare the abundance and diversity of indicator species, including birds, surf zone fish and threatened and endangered species between MPAs and reference sites, and analyze changes in ecological variables inside and outside MPAs over time.

Project monitoring sites

This project plans to conduct monitoring at the following Tier I sites (listed from north to south):

sandy beach monitoring sites map

  • Reading Rock SMCA
  • Ten Mile SMR
  • MacKerricher SMCA
  • Bodega Head SMR
  • Point Reyes SMR
  • Montara SMR
  • Ano Nuevo SMR
  • Greyhound Rock SMCA
  • Carmel Bay SMCA
  • Point Lobos SMR
  • Vandenberg SMR
  • Point Conception SMR
  • Campus Point SMCA
  • Point Dume SMR
  • Laguna Beach SMR
  • Dana Point SMCA
  • Swami's SMCA



Principal Investigators
Jenifer Dugan
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)
Co-principal Investigators
Henry Page
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)
Robert Miller
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)
Kristin Lindquist
Greater Farallones Association
profile photo of Jose Marin Jarrin Jose Marin Jarrin
Cal Poly Humboldt
Timothy Mulligan
Cal Poly Humboldt
Mark Colwell
Cal Poly Humboldt
Daniel Robinette
Point Blue Conservation Science (PRBO)
Kristina Neuman
Point Blue Conservation Science (PRBO)
Scott Hamilton
Moss Landing Marine Laboratories / San Jose State University
Karina Nielsen
Sonoma State University (Sonoma State)
Seth Ricker
California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)
John Garza
NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center

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