**This blog entry orginally appeared on the website oceanspaces.org.**/p>

California’s South Coast marine protected area (MPA) network was established in early 2012, and it ranges from Point Conception to the California-Mexico border. It includes sandy beaches, kelp forests, rocky shores, and deep waters that teem with marine life.

You may already know that we are in the middle of the South Coast MPA baseline period, which extends from 2012-2017. It’s a great time for an update on the progress we’ve made in the baseline period, and where we’re headed.


What happens during the South Coast MPA baseline period?

From 2012-2017, researchers, managers, citizen scientists, fishermen, and others are collaborating to develop a benchmark of ecological and socioeconomic conditions in the South Coast region, and to identify any initial changes that have occurred since the MPAs were established.

State managers will use this information in the first adaptive management review of the South Coast MPA network. Results can also be used to identify and evaluate changes in the condition of the MPAs in the future. Beyond this, MPA monitoring can be useful to scientists and managers who consider a range of issues, including water quality, ocean acidification and hypoxia, climate change, and fisheries management.

The breadth of participation  during this period is part of what makes California’s MPA monitoring so unique and exciting. When else do so many people from so many different backgrounds work together to learn about – and share their knowledge about – their environment?! It’s a special thing.

The baseline period includes 4 key steps:

  1. The South Coast MPA Baseline Program
  2. Building Partnerships
  3. Sharing Results
  4. Adaptive Management

California Ocean Science Trust, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Ocean Protection Council, and California Sea Grant are working together throughout the baseline period, including the design, implementation, and support of the South Coast MPA Baseline Program.


So where are we now?

We’re currently wrapping up Step 1 and moving into Step 2 of the baseline period. Researchers in the South Coast MPA Baseline Program completed data collection in 2014, and their  technical reports based on this work are in the final stages of review. These reports will be shared with everybody on the South Coast region page later this month. In the coming months, we’ll also share the data that researchers collected in the program.

But it doesn’t end there. There is a huge array of work going on in the South Coast that can help us to develop a benchmark of conditions in the region. To help bring that in, we are beginning a series of additional partnerships-based projects, which will link research from the Baseline Program with other existing research and local knowledge, especially around citizen science, fisheries management, water quality, and ocean conditions.

In 2016, we will be sharing the results of the Baseline Program, partnerships-based projects, and other findings with decision makers and communities in the South Coast.


But I want information about the region now!

In the meantime, you can learn about rocky intertidal and kelp forest ecosystems in some South Coast MPAs through a new booklet released by PISCO (the Partnership for Interdisciplinary Studies of Coastal Oceans): 10 Years of Change at the Channel Islands. OceanSpaces member Jenn Caselle led the development of PISCO’s report — check out her blog post to learn more!

California established 13 MPAs in the northern Channel Islands in 2003, which were integrated into the South Coast MPA network when it was established in 2012. PISCO has monitored rocky reef and kelp forest ecosystems in the northern Channel Islands MPAs for over a decade, beginning in 1999. In recognition of the 10-year anniversary of the northern Channel Islands MPAs, PISCO conducted analyses of the biological trends in these ecosystems, using the last 10 years of data collected there. Their findings are available in the booklet, so be sure to give it a read!


How can I stay in the loop?

Check out the South Coast region page for more information about the baseline period, including links to each of the 10 projects in the South Coast MPA Baseline Program. We’ll be sure to keep that page up-to-date as reports and data become available. 

Over the coming months, check back here for more blog posts about our activities during the South Coast baseline period. You can also watch the OceanSpaces newsletter for updates. 

Feel free to reach out to me (benet.duncan@calost.org) or Aaron McGregor (aaron.mcgregor@calost.org) with any questions!