TASK 36: Beach Biodiversity Surveys at Point Conception

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Agency Name
The Nature Conservancy
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Area/s of Research
Ecology and Evolution

California’s sandy beaches support some of the highest biodiversity known anywhere in the world. Understanding patterns of beach biodiversity, including invertebrate, fish and shorebird fauna, is key to protecting and managing ecological values and functions into the future, especially in the context of climate change and growing human disturbances of beach ecosystems. Developing methods and approaches for surveying beach characteristics and biodiversity has been the focus of research for Dr. Jenny Dugan and her team at the Marine Science Institute for many years. Her research has documented patterns of diversity and abundance, food webs, beach characteristics, and dynamic beach processes throughout California mainland and island beaches.

The beaches in the vicinity of Point Conception, a major biogeographic boundary on the California coast, have never been extensively surveyed and are now part of TNC’s Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve (Preserve) which includes over 8 miles of open coast shoreline. These beaches (North Beach, Governments, Percos, and Cojo beach) represent wild and relatively undisturbed beaches in the context of southern highly populated California. Currently, there are few data describing the characteristics, dynamism, and patterns of biodiversity on beaches on either side of Point Conception, representing an important information gap that will limit successful conservation and management of these beaches as part of the Preserve. Additionally, the intertidal and subtidal portions of the beaches southeast of Point Conception (Governments, Percos, and Cojo) are part of the Point Conception State Marine Reserve. Dr. Dugan has received some funding from the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to survey these beaches for various elements of biodiversity. These TNC-funded beach surveys, that are the focus on this Task Agreement, will add to and complement the current and planned OPC and BOEM funded surveys to provide a fuller picture of beach biodiversity above and below Pt. Conception on the Dangermond Preserve. BOEM has funded one trophic subsidy survey at North Beach and the OPC is funding fish and shorebird surveys at Percos beach (Pt. Conception SMR) in 2019-2020. Dr. Dugan will coordinate with Pt. Blue Conservation Science on shorebird surveys of SMR beaches to avoid duplication of effort.

The Parties would like to work together to begin to fill these information gaps using focused beach biodiversity surveys that will be conducted by Dr. Jenny Dugan and her research team, in conjunction with TNC scientists. The Parties will work together to implement a spatial survey of spatial characteristics that covers the sandy beach shoreline of the Dangermond Preserve and that will be done in conjunction with more focused biodiversity surveys conducted by Dr. Dugan and her team. The Parties intend for this collaboration to result in data to be provided to the Preserve to support management, as well as potentially 1-2 peer review publications resulting from this work.