Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
Beaches_ map
Figure 1. Sandy shoreline in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary [View Larger]
Beaches are one of the most visible and popular sanctuary habitats. Sand beaches represent half the intertidal habitat in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Every year, travelers from around the world come to enjoy the natural scenery, wildlife and recreation that our beaches offer.

Unfortunately, beaches suffer from a number of challenges. These include water quality, coastal armoring and trash. Shoreline Habitat Classification Interactive Map


Long-term Monitoring Program & Experiential Training for Students (LiMPETS)
LiMPETS is a program for middle schools, high schools and other volunteer groups; it was developed to monitor rocky intertidal, sandy beach and offshore areas of the five West Coast national marine sanctuaries: Olympic Coast, Cordell Bank, Gulf of the Farallones, Monterey Bay and Channel Islands.

The sanctuaries and their partners monitor the abundance and distribution of major intertidal biota, sand crabs and selected offshore species to increase awareness and stewardship of these ecosystems. Various data collection procedures include transects, random quadrat counts, total organism counts, sex determination and size measurements. Data are collected so that long-term changes can be followed by interested groups working with the sanctuaries' education staff.

Sand Dollar Beach near Plaskett Creek. Sand Dollar Beach is the longest accessible sandy beach along the Big Sur coast between Ragged Point and Point Sur. Also well known as a spot for surfing, hiking and fishing. Next to the Plaskett Creek campground on Highway 1.

Bruckner Chase as he exits the ocean at San Carlos Beach after swimming 26 miles across Monterey Bay from Santa Cruz, CA.

Sandy beach monitoring in the West Coast marine sanctuaries focuses on the Pacific mole crab, Emerita analoga, or sand crab - a common inhabitant. Sand crabs, which filter-feed plankton from the water, are important organisms in this ecosystem. They are eaten by coastal birds and sea otters.

Sand crabs are used by humans as bait for fishing and have been used as indicators of the pesticide DDT and the neurotoxin domoic acid. The sand crab is also an intermediate host for a number of parasites, including acanthocephalans (thorny-headed worms), which affect threatened sea otters and Surf Scoters.

The Interaction of Sea Walls and Beaches: Eight Years of Field Monitoring in Monterey Bay
Active erosion is one of three potential impacts from coastal protection structures. Gary Griggs (University of California Santa Cruz) investigated this potential impact by monitoring beaches adjacent to sea walls along the central California coast, biweekly to monthly during a seven-year period. These surveys allowed Griggs to evaluate both the seasonal beach changes due to the presence of sea walls as well as any longer-term effects.

Although active erosion during winter months was documented at sea walls in this study, erosion was seasonal and temporary in nature. A comparison of summer and winter beach profiles on beaches with sea walls and on adjacent control beaches revealed no significant long-term effects or impacts from sea walls in this location during this seven-year period.

Coastal Ocean Marine Mammal & Bird Education and Research Surveys (Beach COMBERS)
Since 1997, trained volunteers have surveyed beached marine birds and mammals monthly at selected beach sections throughout the Monterey Bay area as part of the Coastal Ocean Mammal and Bird Education and Research Surveys (Beach COMBERS) program.

Beach COMBERS is a collaborative effort between Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and the sanctuary, along with other state and research institutions including California Department of Fish and Game, Marine Wildlife Veterinary Care and Research Center, and the University of California Davis. The project uses deposition of beach-cast carcasses as an index of the sanctuary's health.

This program has been very successful - by providing data for a number of scientific papers that contribute to the conservation of sanctuary resources as well as identifying and quantifying oiled wildlife, among many other accomplishments. For example:
Natural Bridges beach
Ecological Effects of the Moss Landing Thermal Discharge
From 2002 to 2005, scientists and students at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories determined if changes in the distribution or community structure of the benthic fauna could be correlated with the thermal plume from the Moss Landing Power Plant (MLPP) outfall; and compared beach fauna to a study done in 1975.

There were no detectable significant impacts of the MLPP outfall on intertidal and shallow subtidal faunal communities. There was no significant difference in the abundance of intertidal total fauna, crustaceans or polychaetes between 1975 to 1976 and 2003 to 2005. There were, however, significantly fewer species between 2003 and 2005.
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