Warm Waters Impact Kelp Forests

Unusually red abalone feeding behavior in Mendicino County (image credit K. Joe, CDFW)
Many important nearshore fisheries in northern California rely on healthy kelp forests, either as a food source or important habitat.  These fisheries are threatened because of a dramatic decline of the state’s kelp forests north of San Francisco.  Aerial surveys of the kelp in 2008 and 2014 by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), revealed a 93% decline of canopy-forming kelp species in this region (you can view the CDFW aerial kelp surveys in the CeNCOOS Data portal [linked...]).
Two consecutive years of warm water conditions and unprecedented numbers of purple urchins on the north coast have contributed to the lack of kelp in 2014 and 2015.  Subsurface temperatures (at 30-feet) in the kelp forests in Mendocino County hit a record high in the Fall of 2014, and saw comparable temperatures in 2015.  These spikes in temperature were caused by the “Warm Blob” in 2014, coupled with the strong El Niño conditions  in 2015.  Warm water, and diminished nutrients associated with warm water, stresses the kelp and makes it more vulnerable to urchin grazing.

Video Features OA Monitoring Partnership

The New York Times, as part of the "California Matters" series, posted a video exploring our science-industry partnership to monitor ocean acidification and water quality in Tomales Bay.  The video follows host Mark Bitmann as he visits with Tessa Hill (UC Davis) and Hog Island Oyster Company co-owner Terry Sawyer to discuss ocean observing assets deployed at the oyster farm.  These instruments are being used to track water conditions that are important to both research science and the shellfish companies in the area.

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