SIMoN
  Sanctuary Integrated Monitoring Network
Monitoring Project

LiMPETS rocky intertidal monitoring

Principal Investigator(s)

  • Abby Nickels
    Greater Farallones Association
  • Emily Gottlieb
    Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History
  • John Pearse
    University of California, Santa Cruz
  • Jessie Altstatt
    Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary
  • Monika Krach
    Greater Farallones Association
Start Date: January 01, 1999

LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students) is a citizen science program for students, educators and volunteer groups. Citizen scientists monitor the coastal ecosystems of California’s national marine sanctuaries, increasing awareness and stewardship of these important areas. The statewide program connects over 5,000 citizens (primarily teachers and students) annually to the ocean, involves them directly in a hands-on scientific endeavor and increases their knowledge of the marine environment, creating a new generation of informed and engaged ocean stewards.

Beyond the educational value of the program, the power of LiMPETS lies in the large quantity of data collected at more than 60 sites and over 600 miles of California coastline. Annually, thousands of people collect baseline data. By monitoring, teachers, their students and community groups become the eyes and ears for our coastal beaches and rocky shores detecting changes and possible problems. LiMPETS data has informed Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s Condition Report, was published in the National Marine Sanctuary Conservation Series, and helped establish a baseline of key indicator species for the new system of California Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

The LiMPETS network is a collaborative effort among California’s national marine sanctuaries, Greater Farallones Association, and Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History. Together, we have established a long-term, quantitative intertidal and sandy beach program that can be used by the national marine sanctuaries, teachers, students, scientists, and resource managers to better assess the health of these habitats.

Visit http://limpets.org for more information.

Summary to Date

The rocky intertidal on the west coast of North America supports one of the richest and most diverse biotas in the world (Stephenson and Stephenson, 1972; Ricketts et al., 1985). Moderate climate, energetic waves, and productive nearshore waters all contribute to this wealth. This biota is subject to constant change, today largely from anthropogenic causes.

LiMPETS monitors 27 intertidal taxa at 29 rocky intertidal sites along the California coast. The frequency of monitoring varies by site. At sites where data are collected, data show natural seasonal fluctuations, zonation changes and die-off trends from disease (see Figures and Images). LiMPETS data have informed the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report, were published in the National Marine Sanctuary Conservation Series, and helped establish a baseline of key indicator species for the new system of California Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

From 2014-2016, LiMPETS worked with scientific experts to improve its science protocols, quality assurance and control practices, and database management. LiMPETS was funded by Resources Legacy Fund to create a new and improved online database. We have completed the first stage of this project and are currently seeking additional funding to complete it. The new database, along with the LiMPETS Quality Assurance Project Plan, greatly improves our ability to distinguish high-quality data and provide data confidence to scientists and resource managers. In addition, analyses of student-collected and professionally collected sea star data show similar trends for both sea star abundance and owl limpet size-frequency trends (see Figures and Images).

Monitoring Trends

  • At sites within the Greater Farallones and Monterey Bay NMS, data show natural seasonal fluctuations, zonation changes and die-off trends from disease (see Figures and Images).
  • Analyses of student-collected and professionally-collected sea star data show similar trends for both sea star abundance and owl limpet size-frequency trends (see Figures and Images).

Study Parameters

  • Diversity
  • Abundance

Study Methods

LiMPETS collects abundance data using quadrats and total counts on the following organisms:

Invertebrates
● Giant green anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica)
● Sunburst anemone (Anthopleura sola)
● Aggregating anemone (Anthopleura elegantissima)
● Sea mussel (Mytilis californianus)
● Chiton (Mopalia spp./ Nuttalina californica/Lepitochitona spp./ others)
● Turban snail (Chlorostoma spp.)
● Whelk (Acanthinucella spp. & Nucella spp.)
● Limpet (Lottia spp.)
● Hermit crab (Pagurus spp.)
● Common acorn barnacle (Balanus & Chthamalus spp.)
● Pink acorn barnacle (Tetraclita rubescens)
● Leaf barnacle (Pollicipes polymerus)
● Ochre sea star (Pisaster ochraceus)
● Purple sea urchin (Strongylocentrotus purpuratus)
● Honeycomb tube worm (Phragmatopoma californica)

Algae
● Sea lettuce (Ulva spp.)
● Green pin-cushion algae (Cladophora columbina)
● Surfgrass (Phyllospadix spp.)
● Flattened rockweeds (Fucus spp./ Hesperophycus californicus)
● Slender rockweeds (Silvetia compressa/Pelvetiopsis limitata)
● Scouring pad algae (Endocladia muricata)
● Stunted turkish towel (Mastocarpus papillatus/jardinii & Mazzaella affinis)
● Iridescent algae (Mazzaella flaccida/splendens)
● Tar spot algae (Mastocarpus spp./ Ralfsia spp. & others)
● Coralline algae (Bosiella, Corallina, Calliarthron spp., and many others)

LiMPETS also collects size-frequency data of ochre sea stars (Pisaster ochraceus) and owl limpets (Lottia gigantea). In addition, experienced staff records the presence of wasting syndrome of sea stars.


Figures and Images

Figure 1. Dr. John Pearse, Emeritus Professor at UCSC and creator of LiMPETS rocky intertidal monitoring, and Emily Gottlieb, LiMPETS Coordinator in the Monterey Bay region, monitoring in San Simeon (Photo credit: Carolyn Skinder, NOAA, 2016).

Figure 2. Students use quadrats (the square PVC frames with 25 squares inside) to quantify intertidal invertebrates and algae that are difficult to count as individuals (Photo credit: Jessie Altstatt, Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary).

Figure 3. Krach, Monika. 2016. Youth-based citizen scientists monitor the rocky intertidal. Ocean Climate Summit. San Francisco.


Figure 4. Krach, Monika. 2016. Youth-based citizen scientists monitor the rocky intertidal. Ocean Climate Summit. San Francisco.


Figure 5. Krach, Monika. 2016. Youth-based citizen scientists monitor the rocky intertidal. Ocean Climate Summit. San Francisco.