Monitoring and evaluation of kelp forest ecosystems in the MLPA marine protected area network

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

Kelp forests and shallow rocky reefs represent some of California’s most iconic nearshore marine ecosystems. They support ecologically, economically, and culturally important native species. They also provide valuable ecosystem services including tourism and nearshore recreational and commercial fisheries.

For these reasons, California has targeted kelp forest and shallow rocky reef habitats for protection in the Marine Life Protection Act Master Plan, and these habitats are listed as a priority in the MPA Monitoring Action Plan. Continued monitoring of kelp forest ecosystems is especially important to the state given the recent dramatic declines in both bull kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana) on California’s north coast, and giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) on California’s central and south coasts, which have resulted in significant adverse ecological and economic impacts.

This project will aggregate historical biological and environmental data from previous surveys of kelp forest and shallow rocky reefs, including baseline MPA monitoring. It will also collect biological data in surveys at MPAs and reference sites through dive surveys, collect kelp canopy data via remote sensing, and collect environmental data using remote sensing and in situ instruments. The project will also include integrated analyses to assess trends in kelp forest and shallow rocky reef communities at the scale of individual MPAs as well as regional scales.

Project monitoring sites

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

  • Ten Mile SMR
  • MacKerricher SMCA
  • Saunders Reef SMCA
  • Stewarts Point SMR
  • Salt Point SMCA
  • Montara SMR
  • Carmel Bay SMCA
  • Point Lobos SMR
  • Point Buchon SMR
  • Campus Point SMCA
  • Harris Point SMR
  • Scorpion SMR
  • Anacapa Island SMCA
  • Anacapa Island SMR
  • Point Dume SMCA
  • Point Dume SMR
  • Blue Cavern Onshore SMCA
  • Laguna Beach SMR
  • Dana Point SMCA
  • Swami's SMCA
  • South La Jolla SMR
Principal Investigators
Mark Carr
University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)
Co-principal Investigators
Kristy Kroeker
University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)
Jan Freiwald
Reef Check Foundation
Brian Tissot
Cal Poly Humboldt
Dan Pondella
Occidental College
Yuichiro Takeshita
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI)
Kyle Cavanaugh
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)
Jennifer Caselle
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Related News