Baseline Characterization of Sandy Beach and Surf-Zone Ecosystems

Start/End: February, 2014 to January, 2017

The goal of this project is to provide the first comprehensive baseline characterization of the region’s sandy beach and adjacent surf-zone ecosystems. This characterization will be based on multiple surveys of sites within and outside of the newly established MPAs. Beach surveys will focus on documenting the biological diversity of intertidal invertebrates, including sand crabs and talitrid amphipods (sandhoppers) that are eaten by shorebirds and surf-zone fishes. Scientists will count numbers and kinds of birds and document the presence of wrack (piles of seaweed that wash up on the shore, providing food and habitat for many beach invertebrates). Human activities will also be recorded at the study beaches. The surf-zone surveys will focus on estimating abundances of surf-zone fishes, including night smelt and surfperch, both of which are important for recreational and commercial beach fishermen and for traditional tribal and subsistence practices. A limited number of fishes caught at the reference sites will be dissected to document their reproductive condition and stomach contents, from which diet is inferred. In the last year of the project, researchers will perform data analyses to identify key trophic links among beach and surf-zone organisms within the context of the North Coast’s physical setting. This will provide the foundation for an evaluation of the baseline ecological status and functioning of the region’s sandy-beach and surf-zone ecosystems. They also hope to identify candidate “indicator” species that could be used for long-term monitoring of sandy beach and surf-zone ecosystem health. This project is a collaboration among academic scientists, North Coast tribes, commercial and recreational fishermen and citizen scientists.

Co-principal Investigators