2014-2016 Research Projects

Trophic Transfer of Domoic Acid in Food Webs of the Future Greenhouse Coastal Ocean ~ D. Hutchins, F. Fu

Project R/ HCE-37
Our project aims to predict how ocean acidification and warming will affect toxin transfer to planktonic and benthic grazers, since they are the first key step in the trophic bio-concentration pathway that determines how much domoic acid ultimately ends up in valuable harvested resources including shellfish, squid, and fish.


The Environmental and Economic Impacts of Moorage Marinas on the West Coast ~ J. Moore, C. Bae, J. Park, N. Trumbull

Project R/ RCE-02
Marina development is increasing in almost all coastal areas, but especially on the West Coast. There are approximately 200 homeport marinas: CA (105) and WA (96). Local governments are interested in increasing revenues from mooring fees, and the local population supports marinas for the public enjoyment. The trend will continue: the amenities and the weather of the West Coast are suitable for the boat users with very little downtime. However, there is lack of research on how mooring facilities harm the marine environment and shoreline health as a result of oil spills, soap and waste discharges and other environmental consequences and the extent to which these are offset by regional economic benefits.


Developing a Model Ordinance for California Local Governments to Integrate Sea Level Rise Adaptation in Existing Land Use Plans ~ S. Hecht, M. Herzog

Project R/ RCE-03
California local governments lack resources, tools, and guidance to tackle one of the most complex sea-level rise adaptation challenges: how to integrate sea-level rise adaptation strategies into the complex web of existing local coastal land use and state and federal floodplain management regulations.


A New Method for Monitoring Urban Beach Ecosystems ~ K. Martin, J. Dugan

Project R/ RCE-04
Every urban sandy beach in California, no matter how altered or how many millions of human visitors it accommodates, retains vital ecological functions. These functions include physical processes such as shoreline protection and water filtration, and biological functions such as nutrient cycling through food webs and nursery functions for many species including birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and invertebrates. To date no long-term, consistent monitoring program exists for evaluating ecosystem condition on urban beaches.


Quantifying Rocky Headland Water and Sediment Transport with Coastal Management Implications ~ J. Largier, D. George

Project R/ HR-02
The most notable outcome of the project will be the predictive conceptual model to estimate circulation and sediment transport around differently sized headlands on the coast of California. We expect that the predictive model will be used to improve sediment management on beaches and offshore by evaluating the efficacy of beach nourishment near headlands. This will benefit coastal zone managers in California including state and federal agencies (Coastal Commission, USACE), regional bodies (BEACON), and local municipalities, as well as marine ecologists and biologists.


Understanding Fish Habitat in a Tidally Restricted Urban Lagoon ~ C. Whitcraft, C. Lowe

Project R/ HCE-39
Our overall project objective is to determine how and to what degree several economically important fish species utilize the newly-dredged CO Lagoon and potential mechanisms for the observed movement patterns.


SoCal Coastal Climate Change Impacts - Capacity Building and CoSMoS Outreach ~ L. Duguay, P. Grifman, J. Hart, A. Manna

Project SCC 13-088
Collaboration with USC Sea Grant (as Lead PI), the LA Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC), Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission, and Heal the Bay.

Trainings will include segments on climate science and local impacts, scientific modeling and shoreline visualization tools, vulnerability assessments, and approaches to adaptation and coastal planning. Through several half-day and full-day workshops, participants will gain foundational knowledge of climate change and the impacts of sea level rise to their communities; come to understand how to conduct a sea level rise vulnerability study and risk assessment for their particular community; receive training on various scientific modeling, visualization, and mapping tools; and learn how to apply the results of the coastal erosion and shoreline change model in their planning efforts. The workshops will be modified into multi-user webinar formats, and thus available to other coastal communities in California and the U.S.

2012-2014 Research Projects

Contaminant-Related Thyroid Disruption In Wild Fish In Southern And Northern California: Cause And Effect Evaluations ~ K. Kelley, J. Reyes, J. Armstrong

Project R/ CE-31
Despite well documented chemical contamination in a large number of coastal California environments, the biological impacts of such contaminants are not well understood. In recent years, an increasing number of studies have determined that several industrial, domestic and pharmaceutical chemicals can alter endocrine systems (?environmental endocrine disruption?). Classified as endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs), these chemicals alter the regulation of physiological systems, resulting in impaired homeostasis and adaptation, risking health and survival (Mattheissen and Law, 2002; Matthiessen, 2003; Hotchkiss et al., 2008; Wingfield, 2008). These issues have raised substantial concerns internationally, let alone regionally.


The Role Of Small Upstream Reservoirs In Trapping Organic Carbon, Nutrients, And Metals In The San Francisco Bay Area ~ L. Rademacher, K. Faul

Project R/ CE-32
Whereas the nature and sources of urban water quality impairments are well studied, questions remain about how watershed modifications resulting from urbanization and management practices impact biogeochemical cycling of these water quality impairments in small upstream reservoirs. Whether these upstream urban reservoirs act as "sources" or "sinks" of contaminants ultimately controls water quality of discharge into the "urban ocean". With more than 50% of the world's population living in cities and 75% of California's population living on the coast, there is a growing imperative to understand the role of urban watershed/reservoir systems in biogeochemical cycling of carbon, nutrients, and metals and how this role may change in response to factors such as climate change and continued urbanization. The San Francisco Bay (SFB) area is one example of an increasingly urbanizing region with a long history of pollution pressures. Few studies investigate the role small urban watershed/reservoir systems, such as those in Oakland CA or the over 250 reservoirs in the SFB area, play in contributing to or mitigating inputs to the SFB system. Additionally, few studies focus on how local authorities might best manage small ephemeral or perennial reservoir systems based on biogeochemical cycling in their specific system. We proposed to address these needs.


Resolving the annual pattern of algal toxins in coastal waters off Los Angeles ~ A. Schnetzer, D. Caron

Project R/ CE-30
Southern California waters are impacted by recurring harmful algal blooms (HABs). These blooms can disrupt the food chain, cause low-oxygen conditions that lead to fish kills in embayments and harbors, and create a threat to animal and human health. The most toxic algae that are commonly observed in Southern California waters are diatoms within the genus Pseudo-nitzschia and dinoflagellates within the genus Alexandrium. Members of both genera are capable of producing potent neurotoxins that can be transferred through the food chain. Domoic acid (DA), the toxin produced by Pseudo-nitzschia, has been implicated in bird and mammal strandings and/or deaths of several hundreds of animals in recent years. Our previous research has demonstrated that the region surrounding the port of Los Angeles may be a 'hotspot' for Pseudo-nitzschia and DA toxicity events. Very recently we confirmed the presence of Alexandrium and saxitoxins (STX) south and north of the LA harbor at Newport pier and in Redondo Beach harbor, but at this time, we do not know the extent of these phenomena in these environments or in the port of Los Angeles. Understanding the spatiotemporal dynamics of HAB species requires sensitive methods that can characterize toxic events from bloom initiation to demise. Determining abundances of toxic algae traditionally requires detailed microscopy to identify and enumerate cells and considerable taxonomic expertise. This limits the number of samples that can be processed. Additionally, simple toxin detection methods, especially those that facilitate in situ monitoring, are only now becoming routinely available. We propose to document abundance dynamics for the most toxic Southern California HAB species (Pseudo-nitzschia and Alexandrium) inside the Los Angeles harbor, at Newport Pier, in Redondo Beach harbor and at Wrigley Pier on Catalina Island. This task will be accomplished by employing species-specific state-of–the-art molecular approaches for identification and enumeration in concert with newly-developed toxin detection methods including a protocol for continued tracking of phycotoxins in situ. Finally, we will employ the same molecular approaches to analyze archived samples to test for differences in the frequency and duration of DA and/or STX toxicity events inside the Los Angeles Harbor compared to the adjacent San Pedro Channel.

Successful Adaptation: Identifying effective Process and Outcome Characteristics and Practice-Relevant Metrics ~ S. Moser, P. Matson, A. Snover, D. Lach

Project R/ HR-01
Climate change is expected to have numerous wide-reaching environmental, economic and social impacts that will play out differently depending on context. Coastal areas are likely to be disproportionately affected by temperature increases, precipitation changes, and climate-related hazards due to sea-level rise and severe storms. They will experience increased rates of coastal erosion, flooding and permanent coastal inundation; coastal ecosystem loss or changes; ocean acidification and shifting marine species distributions; and loss of unique cultural and natural resources resulting in socioeconomic and emotional impacts related to the loss of valued areas and amenities, and dislocation (NRC 2010a; Adger et al. 2011, Agyeman et al. 2009; IPCC 2007). All coastal areas will likely incur significant impacts due to permanent loss of coastal areas or resources, and growing expenses related to coastal protection, but rural communities, often economically dependent on fishing industries and coastal tourism, and often lacking in institutional capacity, may be particularly vulnerable. Clearly, many coastal communities will face difficult choices and trade-offs in the decades to come as sea level rises at faster-than-historical rates. They will be forced to adopt more stringent or altogether new strategies to strengthen and retain their overall ecological, economic and social resilience, and these will very likely produce winners and losers. And as sea levels inexorably rise over the foreseeable future, the proportion of losers may well mount.

The Value of Habitat Diversity in Marine Reserves: Spiny Lobster and Sheephead Use of the Intertidal Zone at the Santa Catalina Island MPA ~ C. Robles, C. Garza

Project R/ CE-33
A guiding principle in the design of Marine Protected Areas is that a diversity of habitats must be included to provide the complete range of ecosystem services to otherwise exploited species. This is especially true of species that use different habitats at different times in their reproductive cycles. A case in point, is the spiny lobster Panulirus interrruptus, which supports intense commercial and sport fisheries in the Southern California Bight. Prior work in the Santa Catalina Marine Protected Area by the Principle Investigators indicates that high densities of spiny lobsters forage in the intertidal zone on nocturnal high tides in late spring and summer. The timing of this phenomenon coincides with post-recruitment peaks in the abundances of the lobsters' prey, juvenile mussels and other shelled invertebrates. During the season of high intertidal use, female lobsters incur the energetic demands of mating, egg laying, brooding, and molting. Approximately, 75% of the intertidal foragers are recently mated or brooding females (Robles, unpublished data), suggesting that the intertidal habitat plays an important role in the life cycle of this heavily exploited species.


Will A Warmer, More Acidic Ocean Lead To Increased Pseudo-Nitzschia Bloom Toxicity In The Southern California Bight? ~ D. Hutchins, F. Fu

Project R/ CE-34
In recent years, the coastal ocean in the Los Angeles area has been heavily impacted by harmful blooms of the toxic diatom Pseudo-nitzschia spp. Marine food web accumulation of the neurotoxin domoic acid has led to massive wildlife mortalities and risks to ecosystem, human, and economic health along this heavily populated coastline. Our preliminary data suggest that elevated seawater CO2 can strongly stimulate the production of domoic acid by Pseudo-nitzschia cells, leading to potentially much more toxic blooms. Thus, anthropogenic enrichment of the ocean with CO2 (e.g., ocean acidification) could greatly exacerbate the already substantial damage that these harmful algal blooms do to marine life ranging from shellfish to finfish and mammals in the Southern California region. However, almost nothing is currently known about how the toxicity of Pseudo-nitzschia species will be affected by increasing CO2 in combination with other concurrent climate change variables, such as sea surface warming and changes in nutrient supplies and light fields. This project will examine domoic acid production by cultured and natural populations of local Pseudo-nitzschia species under simulated future ocean conditions of temperature, CO2 (pH), irradiance, and nutrient availability. This information will allow marine resource managers to better predict and help prepare for the potentially much more toxic harmful algal blooms that may occur along the Southern California coastline in the future.


The Ecosystem Impacts Of Kelp Forest Habitat Restoration, Including Important Fishery Species ~ D. Pondella, T. Ford, J. Claisse, J. Williams, L. Fink

Project R/ CE-35
Kelp forest ecosystems are iconic and productive features along the coast of California with services that span a wide array of consumptive (e.g., commercial and recreational fishing) and non-consumptive (e.g., tourism, scuba diving and diminishing coastal erosion) uses. Giant Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) forms a 3-dimensional habitat supporting roughly 716 species. One-fourth of California marine organisms depend on it for some part of their life history (Graham 2004). The importance of kelp as a habitat for fish species is enormous; this habitat functions as nursery habitat for newly settled juvenile fishes and has a demonstrated value as a refuge from predation (Dayton 1985; Steneck et al. 2002). Drift kelp and associated dissolved organic matter provide an energetic resource to populations of species both within and around kelp beds (Duggins et al. 1989; Tegner and Dayton 2000; Graham et al. 2007). These habitats support fisheries for a number of invertebrates (e.g., sea urchins, spiny lobster) and finfish [e.g., Kelp Bass (Paralabrax clathratus), California Sheephead (Semicossyphus pulcher)] (CDFG 2010), in addition to Giant Kelp being harvested itself for a variety of human uses. Through both fishing activities and non-consumptive uses, California's ocean-related activities support the state economy by bringing in 40+ billion dollars a year in revenue (Kildow and Colgan 2005).


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