Water Quality and Coastal Ecosystems
Emerging Harmful Algal Blooms in Coastal Southern California: A Case Study in King Harbor, City of Redondo Beach, CA ~ D. Caron, A. Schnetzer
Project R\ CE-21
The primary goal of this research is to characterize HABs in King Harbor of Redondo Beach, and to conduct experimental and observational measurements to explain the initiation of these blooms, their persistence, and their eventual decline. The overall scientific objective is to acquire predictive understanding of the occurrence of massive algal accumulations in this enclosed basin. The confined circulation of King Harbor, and information on pertinent environmental parameters resulting from a study of this environment by another research program (as noted below) provides a superb study site to accomplish this task. A second, very practical objective is to provide the City Council with information that will enable a more informed decision by Redondo Beach officials regarding measures that might be taken to correct or perhaps prevent future HAB events. Our observational work will characterize the progression of blooms, and establish the major environmental driving forces giving rise to these blooms.
Contaminant stressor response in Mytilus using genomics: mussel monitoring for the new millennium ~ A. Gracey, J. Moffett
The discharge of heavy metals and other contaminants into coastal receiving waters is regulated by the Clean Water Act using criteria developed through toxicity testing of marine invertebrate larvae, particularly the mussel Mytilus edulis, and related species within the genus. Because these species are highly sensitive to contaminants in their larval stages, the criteria have led to considerable improvement in water quality in many harbors. However, harbors are complex systems, and the existing approach is less useful in assessing the impacts of episodic events (like floods) on ambient populations, synergistic or antagonistic effects of multiple stressors, and long-term community adaptations to such stressors. Criteria that protect receiving waters are based on laboratory toxicity testing, coupled with simple waste load allocation models that cannot provide an accurate picture of complex systems. Newer approaches, based on rapid advances in molecular biology, have yet to be incorporated into a regulatory framework, but have the potential to provide insightful, site-specific information on contaminant fate and transport and community response.
Estimating impacts of past natural and anthropogenic disturbances on shelf macrobenthic communities: a field test using dead-shell assemblages ~ S. Kidwell,
Project R\ CE-23
The continental shelf of the Southern California Bight has experienced marked variation in climate and in human inputs of nutrients, toxins, and solid sediment during the last 100 years. However, it is poorly known whether seafloor communities bight-wide and at a distance from wastewater outfalls have shifted in composition, affecting our sense of what the natural, remediated state of these communities would be, and the relative importance of natural and human forces on community change are difficult to establish. Proof-of-concept work funded by NSF has found via a global meta-analysis a high fidelity of molluscan death assemblages to local living communities under stable conditions, with “live-dead” mismatches indicating strong human modification of the local living community; studies elsewhere have established the decadal time resolution of amino-acid racemization dating. Pilot work on death assemblages from the Bight 2003 survey show that bivalve shells are sufficiently abundant and intact to support a quantitative analysis of this type, and preliminary analysis of live-survey data and archived death assemblages from 1975 both indicate that community composition has shifted bight-wide. This project will leverage the millions of dollars of investment already made by state and federal agencies to characterize and monitor the physical environment and biological communities of the southern California Bight over the last 30 years.
Evaluating The Impact Of The Clean Water Act On Coastal Waters Off The Southern California Bight: Temporal And Spatial Gradients In Metal Contamination In The Water Column And In Phytoplankton ~ S. A. Sañudo-Wilhelmy
Project R\ CE-24
Although Federal and State monitoring programs have provided extensive data on contaminants in biological tissues and sediments, there is inadequate information on the levels of toxic metals in the water column of the SCB. Therefore, it has been difficult to establish the full impact of the implementation of the Clean Water Act in this coastal environment. The information generated in this research may have tremendous implications for various coastal managerial decisions. For example, this research will help us to delimit areas impacted by toxic metals. If the current metal levels in the coastal ocean of the SCB are as low as the open ocean, should we continue spending more money upgrading sewage treatment plants? Similarly, if the levels of metal in phytoplankton are mostly in the extracellular pool, and/or metals are being internalized too slowly to produce any toxic effects, should we then re-evaluate current metal criteria standards? However, without knowing the levels of toxic metals in the water column and in phytoplankton, it is almost impossible to have a complete assessment of the contamination affecting the urban ocean of the SCB. It is to some extent unbelievable that despite the more than 175 million people visiting the beaches of Southern California every year, generating about $9 billion in ocean-related activities, levels of toxic metals in those waters are still unknown.
Site Fidelity and Depth Preference of Nearshore Reef Fishes on San Pedro Shelf Offshore Petroleum Platforms ~ C. Lowe
Many of the 27 petroleum platforms found off of California are forecast to end production in the next decade, which has heightened the debate regarding their decommissioning. Currently, California requires complete removal of decommissioned platforms, although there is growing evidence that these structures have larger individuals and higher abundances of economically important fish than adjacent natural reefs. These increased numbers of fish associated with offshore platforms compared to natural reefs have been attributed to the differences in fishing pressure and extraction efficiency, thereby allowing these platforms to function as de facto marine reserves. A majority of the research done on fish population around offshore platforms have focused on those in the Santa Barbara Channel; however, relatively little is known about the fishes associated with the southern most platforms on the San Pedro Shelf, where rocky habitat is less abundant and urban influences from the heavily populated Los Angeles and Orange Counties have degraded much of the coastal habitat. Preliminary observations indicate that nearshore reef fish may dominate San Pedro Shelf platforms, while rockfishes tend to dominate the more northern platforms. In addition, it is essential to know whether the fish that are observed on these platforms are residents of these platforms. If fish on offshore platforms in the San Pedro Basin show high site fidelity, these structures could be as ecologically important as those in the Santa Barbara Channel. Therefore, any complete removal of these could have significant impacts on adjacent marine communities and local fisheries. Knowledge gained from this study will be used to assess the ecological importance of petroleum platforms on the San Pedro Shelf which will help shape any potential “rigs-to-reefs” policy in California. Additionally, information on site fidelity and depth preference will be of value to resource managers in designing future artificial reef habitat and marine reserves.
The Effects of Urban Stormwater Runoff on Phytoplankton Dynamics in Santa Monica Bay ~ R. Shipe, A. Corcoran
This project will enrich our understanding of the interaction between coastal eutrophication and food web processes in nearshore marine communities. The strengths of this project are its rapid response to stormwater plumes and multi-isotope approach coupled with broad ecological measurements. We will produce information to be used by management agencies locally and will disseminate knowledge and training within the University of California Los Angeles and existing monitoring programs. Specifically, this project will provide quantitative data of static variables (phytoplankton stocks, community structure) and rate processes (primary production, nutrient cycling) within and outside of urban runoff plumes, illuminating the role of urban runoff in the Santa Monica Bay ecosystem. We will begin to identify causative agents that favor potentially harmful dinoflagellate growth – a first step in establishing pollutant thresholds for receiving water bodies. Current cost-benefit analyses of stormwater quality improvements in Santa Monica Bay are based on data from local monitoring agencies, and are thus severely limited by a lack of biological data. Many analyses include fecal coliform, debris, oil, grease, and lead but ignore other constituents that might produce bottom-up food web effects, such as inorganic nutrients and dissolved organic carbon. It is unwise to establish a management regime of an ecosystem based on only a few contaminants which may not directly correlate to ecosystem change. Our data will be directly applicable to the regulation of stormwater inputs as well as land use and land cover in the Santa Monica Bay drainage area. The comparison between two contrasting watersheds will help to dissociate the role of urban development from that of natural runoff; although similar in size, the Malibu and Ballona Creek watersheds have notably different land cover and land use patterns. Further, because of the biochemical similarity of Santa Monica Bay to other regions in California and high level of urban development adjacent to the Bay, results from this project will be applicable statewide.
This project will provide a number of opportunities for training of researchers and data dissemination. Undergraduate students at UCLA will participate in the research at all stages, from collection of samples on plume cruises to data analysis and presentation under the supervision of the PI. Information from this project will be quickly disseminated through a variety of professional workshops and data meetings such as those hosted by the California Ocean Protection Council. Finally, our current collaboration with the Environmental Monitoring Division of the Los Angeles Department of Public Works will allow for rapid methodological and data exchange, which should facilitate changes in similar monitoring programs.
Proteomics to Develop Relevant Phenotypic Biomarkers of Environmental Impacts in Wild
Marine Fishes of Southern California ~ K. Kelley, A. Mason, A. Elamin, J. Armstrong
Worldwide, adverse health effects to wildlife and humans resulting from environmental exposure to persistent industrial, pharmaceutical, and natural chemicals have been increasingly documented, raising significant international concerns. The effects of such chemicals are often transduced through endocrine systems, with other important effects including actions on detoxification enzyme systems, intracellular signaling pathways or proteins, and the like. Singly, and collectively, these perturbations can significantly alter physiological homeostasis and impair health. Surprisingly, these issues have been significantly understudied on the Pacific Coast, particularly in the Southern California Bight region, which is a marine environment affected by one of the largest human populations in the U.S.A. Studies to understand impacts specifically in marine environments are also lacking worldwide.
The proposed studies will take a first step toward developing specific phenotypic biomarkers of environmental effects in the Southern California Bight and are positioned to point to potential causative factors (contaminants) in the environment. This project brings together academic research laboratories offering expertise in fish endocrine physiology and toxicology, proteomics, and trace chemical analysis, with an important regional WWTP (OCSD), which has direct interest in the information to be generated and is providing both expertise and the cost-matching to support a successful outcome.
It is the intent of this project to take advantage of this defined environment-based experimental model to develop the proteomic technology on the English sole. We have already seen the power of the technique in our preliminary work, and with the results of the proposed study as a “proof of technique”, we plan to expand its use among our collaborations and colleagues locally, and also to those interested from outside of our region (a wide distribution of the English sole populations, combined with close pleuronectid relatives in similar environments worldwide, support this possibility). The P.I.s maintain ongoing, important collaborations with key regional governmental agencies (e.g., OCSD, CLAEMD, LACSD, SCCWRP, SWQCB) with whom there is a vigorous degree of cooperation and communication, and the outcome of this work (development of effective diagnostic and screening tools) will be directly disseminated to them and hopefully incorporated into ongoing environmental monitoring efforts regionally and beyond. Funding the development of new technologies is an essential role of the Sea Grant Program, given the very limited capability of these regional agencies to do so.
We will continue in our ongoing substantial efforts to actively communicate our scientific findings directly to local agencies, to publish the data in the professional peer reviewed literature and other publications, to establish informational web-pages under www.csulb.edu/depts/endo
with links to agencies, organizations and universities, and we will present the results at professional conferences and other meetings to provide outreach to stakeholders. In addition, a graduate student is planned as a SG trainee in this project, providing a direct educational benefit to a training marine scientist, and the involvement of three other students is planned, two of whom are underrepresented minority undergraduates.
Distributions, Abundances, and Feeding
Interactions with Native Consumers of Nonindigenous Seaweeds on Urban Southern
California Shores ~ S. Murray, J.R. Smith
Coastal managers and agencies increasingly are being asked to shift management strategies towards Ecosystem Based Management (EBM) in recognition of the need to more fully understand the impacts of agents of change on whole coastal systems. Too often coastal managers have insufficient knowledge and understanding of the structure and functioning of the ecosystems they are managing to develop effective management strategies. The purpose of this proposal is to inform EBM efforts by increasing our understanding of changing distributions and abundances of non-indigenous species (NIS) of seaweeds and the interactions between these and possible future seaweed NIS and native consumers on urban southern California shores.
Previous research has revealed ecologically significant changes in the distributions and abundances of invertebrate and seaweed populations over the last 25 years, particularly on disturbed rocky shores adjacent to urban centers. Our Sea Grant supported studies include evidence for declines in the abundances of larger, fleshy seaweeds, shifts in the primary productivity budgets of rocky shores, and decreases in the biological diversity of mussel communities. We also have found increases in the abundances of NIS of seaweeds, particularly in the last five years. Previous studies in terrestrial and marine communities have revealed that disturbed natural habitats facilitate NIS establishment leading us to believe that urban southern California intertidal systems are likely candidates for supporting new populations of introduced species. We know from our prior Sea Grant work that certain NIS of seaweeds, including the small red alga C. ustulatus and the larger, brown seaweed S. muticum, are now important contributors to overall community primary productivity in urban, intertidal systems suggesting shifts in community tropho-dynamics. Although numerous studies have investigated interactions between herbivorous consumers and NIS of plants in terrestrial systems, interactions between marine algae and marine consumers have not been well explored, particularly in southern California. This leads to questions about the roles being played by NIS of seaweeds in urban southern California intertidal communities and how existing or potential introductions of NIS interact with native consumers. Our research also will add to the bodies of evidence regarding the validity of the “enemy release hypothesis” (ERH ) or the “biotic resistance hypothesis” (BRH). The ERH, largely developed in terrestrial systems, suggests that NIS will be more resistant than native seaweeds and, therefore, if eaten by native consumers will be eaten at slower rates and be less preferred. In contrast, the BRH suggests that NIS have not evolved effective deterrence mechanisms to native consumers and will be eaten at faster rates and be preferred over native seaweed foods.
Understanding feeding interactions between existing and possible future NIS of seaweeds and native consumers will contribute to more effective EBM by shedding light on ecosystem-level responses to NIS invasions in seemingly vulnerable, urban southern California habitats. Such studies also will improve the ability of managers to evaluate the potential impacts of future NIS seaweed introductions.
Coastal Hazards and Public Safety
Commerce and Society