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Characterization of Rocky Intertidal, Kelp Forest and Deep Rocky and Sandy Ecosystems at San Clemente Island
Our approach to characterizing the baseline conditions of rocky intertidal ecosystems within SCI exclusion and reference sites will be closely linked to the rocky intertidal baseline monitoring approaches used to provide baseline characterization for the California MPA network: South Coast Study Region (Blanchette and Raimondi co-PIs), Central Coast Study Region (Raimondi and Blanchette, co-PIs) and the North-Central Coast Study Region (Raimondi, PI). This tight integration of leadership, personnel, protocols and datasets with sampling programs in other California regions will ensure consistency in methods and data facilitating synthesis and analysis across study regions.
Our program will be closely coordinated with the two major existing west coast regional monitoring programs for intertidal ecosystems (where Raimondi and Blanchette are also PI’s). The first is MARINe (Multi Agency Rocky Intertidal Network, http://www.marine.gov/), which evolved from the monitoring program initiated by the Channel Islands National Park in the early 1980’s (Davis 1985; Richards and Davis 1988). The MARINe monitoring was explicitly directed at detecting temporal changes in the intertidal communities (Raimondi et al 2005). The second is PISCO (Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans, http://www.piscoweb.org/), which has supported the Coastal Biodiversity Survey program (described in detail below). These biodiversity surveys have been conducted at 130 sites from central Alaska to southern Baja, California, Mexico (Blanchette et al. 2008).
While the unified MARINe protocols have proven to be extraordinarily powerful for detecting changes in communities (Minchinton and Raimondi 2005) and particularly in separating anthropogenic from natural dynamics (Raimondi et al 1999), they were not designed to estimate biodiversity. Moreover, we found that geomorphology was tremendously important in determining communities and dynamics of communities. To address these concerns we designed a spatially explicit biodiversity monitoring program. This program has been variously called the SWAT or comprehensive surveys, but herein we will use the term biodiversity surveys. These surveys have been conducted at almost all of the MARINe sites and several non – MARINe sites.
Our baseline characterization and monitoring plan will be based on the successful elements from both the MARINe and biodiversity survey programs and aimed at the assessment and understanding of ecological conditions in rocky intertidal ecosystems in this region at or near the time of MPA implementation. Our protocols will be generally aligned with those used in other study regions, and identical to those being used across the south coast study region. Based on our experiences with both the MARINe and PISCO programs, as well as leading the baseline monitoring efforts in both the central and north central regions, we propose to use two separate survey types to characterize rocky intertidal ecosystems of SCI. Both types of surveys will be done in each of the first two years to establish baseline conditions. These sites will include sites previous sampled in 2009 (Boy Scout Camp and Eel Point). Other specific locations will be determined as part of our coordinated planning meeting, which is intended to produce a joint sampling plan for all projects.