Monitoring and Evaluation of Kelp Forest Ecosystems in the MLPA Marine Protected Area Network: 2024-2026

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




This project continues long-term ecological monitoring of kelp forest ecosystems across California's network of marine protected areas. By tracking animals, plants and environmental conditions inside and outside of these protected areas, the project provides critical data that will help guide adaptive management of the state’s Marine Protected Area network.



California's kelp forests provide food, shelter and nursery habitats for a diverse array of marine species. Because kelp forests are so important, they were designated as a key habitat to protect under California's network of marine protected areas (MPAs).

To evaluate how well these MPAs are conserving kelp forests, the researchers will conduct ecological surveys of kelp forest ecosystems at designated MPAs and reference sites along the California coast, surveying fish, invertebrates, algae and habitat characteristics. They will collect data following established protocols used in previous monitoring programs to maintain consistent long-term datasets going back over 20 years. 

By comparing ecological conditions inside and outside MPAs over time, this monitoring program provides the scientific data needed to determine whether MPAs are effectively protecting kelp forest communities. The results will help to adapt and improve conservation strategies and marine resource management policies to ensure a future for California’s iconic kelp ecosystems.



Principal Investigators
Jennifer Caselle
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)
Co-principal Investigators
Mark Carr
University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC)
Daniel Pondella
Occidental College
Sean Craig
Cal Poly Humboldt