Kelp Forest Monitoring

PISCO’s kelp monitoring SCUBA surveys have been running continuously since 1999 in shallow near shore sites located on (5-20 m depth) rocky bottom habitat. They are situated in varying oceanographic regions and conditions (e.g., coastal upwelling) as well as inside and outside of existing marine protected areas. These surveys can provide us with data that help to assess causes and consequences of environmental changes that might be driven by climate changes, natural oceanic cycles or local human influences such as fishing.

With over 10 years of data collected we have used these data to:

Rockfish set against kelp backdrop

PISCO's monitoring approach is based primarily on SCUBA diver surveys that quantify the density and abundance of the macroalgae, invertebrates and fishes that constitute kelp forest communities. This approach allows us to characterize and quantify ecosystem attributes such as biodiversity, community structure, population abundance and size structure of ecologically and economically important species. Through the help of partnerships and collaborations, we have continuously increased the spatial resolution and scale of the monitoring program to include over 60 sites. Central to the success and value of the expansive scale of this monitoring program is the development of survey designs, sampling protocols and training methods that are standardized across all PISCO institutions and partners.

The subtidal program also measures recruitment of fish species to kelp forests using  SMURFs (Standard Monitoring Unit for the Recruitment of Fishes) to understand how marine ecosystems are connected.

The monitoring work is one way that PISCO directly informs management and policy. In addition to ecosystem monitoring, PISCO contributes to marine protected area design by targeted studies about ecological interactions, population connectivity, and other research themes.

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