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

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beach with a pier
Start/End: May, 2019 to November, 2021

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
This project plans to conduct monitoring at the following Tier I sites (listed from north to south). Click to view full-size version.

  • 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

    University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB)

Co-principal Investigators