Sandy beach ecosystems are the focus of this baseline monitoring study. Metrics for assessing beach ecosystem function and health include: 1) kelp-wrack coverage and composition; 2) marine bird, pinniped and macroinvertebrate abundances and 3) population abundances, biomasses and sizes of target species, including sand crabs, Pismo clams, talitrid amphipods and wrack-associated invertebrates. Human activities at the beach are being documented, and scientists are partnering with citizen-science nonprofits to develop and test protocols for training volunteers to help collect long-term beach monitoring information. In addition to the survey work, researchers are studying the ecological importance of beaches to other coastal and nearshore ecosystems, and in 2013 published findings suggesting that two tiny burrowing crustaceans closely related to the roly poly have, in the last century, vanished from most beaches in the South Coast study region. Scientists said the trend is alarming because these animals are considered indicators of beach ecosystem health. In the project’s final year, researchers will complete monthly surveys of South Coast study beaches, analyze their data and conduct a joint workshop for teachers on refining LiMPETS protocols for sandy beaches.
Sandy Beach Ecosystems: Baseline Characterization and Evaluation of Monitoring Metrics for MPAs along the South Coast of California