Skip to main content
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary National Marine Sanctuaries Home Page National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Home Page
Sanctuary Currents 2013
Change: Observations on the Shifting Ecology of the Sanctuary

General Info & Program | Session Abstracts | Ricketts Lecture | Research Posters & Awards
Symposium Flyer (560K PDF) | Symposium Program (645K PDF)

Session Abstracts


Saturday, April 27, 2013


Paul Michel,
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Dr. James Lindholm,
James W. Rote Distinguished Professor of Marine Science and Policy,
Director, Institute for Applied Marine Ecology, CSU Monterey Bay
Chair, Sanctuary Advisory Council & Research Activity Panel

Dr. Chris Harrold (Moderator),
Director, Conservation Research, Monterey Bay Aquarium
Chair, Sanctuary Advisory Council & Research Activity Panel

Observing, Monitoring and Protecting the Blue Serengeti off the California Coast

Dr. Barbara Block
Charles & Elizabeth Prothro Professor in Marine Sciences Evolutionary, Cellular and Molecular Physiology,
Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University

Biologging science is revolutionizing our view of how animals use the ocean in the California Marine Sanctuaries. When free-ranging animals such as tunas, sharks, whales seals or seabirds are tagged with telemetry tags that log location, behavior, physiology and oceanography their movements and biology can be studied in relationship to the environment. The Tagging of Pacific Pelagics (TOPP) has demonstrated the important role of the marine sanctuaries for aggregating diverse predators from across the Pacific basin. New technologies, miniaturization, increased sensor capacity, in combination with gliders and buoys are creating a "Wired Ocean". Animal telemetry provides a significant advancement in our capacity monitor, observe and measure both the stability and change within the ocean ecosystem. Electronic tags provide the capacity to track animal behavior and physiology within the physical environment through which the animals are moving. Sometimes this can be done in near-real time—true telemetry—and often data can be stored for later acquisition. Autonomous vehicles instrumented with sensors for receiving tagged animal data acoustically are also contributing to our capacity to observe free-swimming animals in their environment in real time. Detailed observations of animal movements in their aquatic environment, have significantly improved our understanding of ecosystem function, population structure, fisheries management, physiological and evolutionary constraints of species. These data are critical for preventing extinctions, preserving biodiversity and implementing ecosystem-based management of living resources. Animal-borne sensors have also come of age and deliver high-resolution physical oceanographic data at a relatively low cost. Animals are particularly adept at finding areas of interest to oceanographers (fronts, upwelling areas) and they provide important insights into regions of the oceans that are difficult and expensive to monitor. Together these advances provide the capacity to observe our Blue Serengeti as of climate changes.

Waves in the Sanctuary: Impacts from Top-Down to Bottom-Up

Dr. Curt Storlazzi
Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center, US Geological Survey

Ocean surface waves generate 2,700,000,000,000 watts (2700 gigawatts) of energy each day throughout the world, and they are the most energetic process influencing the water column, sea floor, and coastline in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS). The wave climate offshore central California is characterized by four general regimes: North Pacific winter swell, northwest wind waves, southern summer swell, and local wind waves. This presentation will address not only these waves climates, but also how they vary between El Niño and La Niña events, and how the variations in wave heights, wave periods, and wave directions during the year and between years influence coastal geomorphology, water-column structure, and mobilization of sea-floor sediment in the MBNMS. Next, the impact of the resulting changes in these processes on coastal infrastructure and marine ecosystems in the Sanctuary will be addressed. Lastly, what we are learning about how waves along the U.S. West Coast may be affected by global climate change during the rest of the 21st century will be discussed, and what that might mean for humans and ecosystems along central California.

At the Crossroads: What Monterey Bay Tells Us About Climate Change, and What Climate Change Tells Us About the Future of Monterey Bay

Dr. Stephen Palumbi
Harold A. Miller Professor in Marine Sciences,
Director of Hopkins Marine Station, Stanford University

Monterey Bay has made a stunning comeback over the past 80 years. Massive pollution is gone. Wildlife has returned. The kelp forests are healthier than anytime in the past 100 years. And the ethic of sustainable use of the sea is stronger than ever. But another danger stalks the Bay and could undo all these gains - climate change. Over the past decades, the temperature of Monterey Bay has increased leading to increases in species that used to only be common in Southern California. And we see periods of dangerously low oxygen concentrations. Acidity is predicted to shift strongly, and has already affected some larval forms. Marine species in Monterey Bay are expected to see accelerating changes in temperature, acidity, hypoxia and sea level over the next century. New genomic research shows how some species can adapt to some of these changes in temperature, acidity and hypoxia. Our work on sea urchins and abalone shows that alleles conferring survival advantages in future conditions are widely spread up and down the west coast, perhaps given west coast species a way to adapt to the future. Such adaptive mechanisms are likely to be beneficial during climate change - but only for a while. We have no idea when these mechanisms will be exhausted and when climate change effects on critical marine species will become onerous. Marine research with 'eyes wide open' towards climate change is critical to chart the likely future of a healthy Monterey Bay, and can help our entire community prepare for the changes ahead.

The Ever-Changing World of Marine Mammals in our Sanctuary

Dr. Karin Forney
Marine Mammal and Turtle Division, Southwest Fisheries Science Center,
National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA

The ecosystem of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary supports a great diversity and abundance of marine mammals, including at least 27 whale, dolphin, and porpoise species (cetaceans), 6 seal and sea lion species (pinnipeds), and the southern sea otter. Species abundance and distribution, however, have undergone dramatic changes over time – partly caused by anthropogenic impacts and partly driven by natural variation within the California Current Ecosystem. Large whales and fur-bearers were heavily hunted during past centuries, reducing their populations to very low levels by the early 1900s. Subsequent protective measures allowed most (but not all) of these exploited marine mammal populations to rebound, most notably the seals, sea lions, and eastern Pacific gray whale. Although dolphins, porpoises, and other small cetaceans were not generally hunted, incidental mortality in fisheries adversely impacted harbor porpoises off central California during the late 1900s, and there is recent evidence that beaked whale populations have declined dramatically since 1991. Causes of the beaked whale decline are not clear but could include natural or anthropogenic factors. Throughout the California Current Ecosystem, natural variation caused by seasonal cycles, periodic El Niño and La Niña events, and decadal-scale oceanic 'regime shifts' can impact marine mammals in a variety of ways, including reproductive success, species distribution patterns, and population size and trends. This makes it challenging to monitor the health and status of marine mammal populations, but also offers a glimpse into potential future effects of climate change on marine mammals along our coast.

The Changing Face of Management? A Reflection on Twenty Years of Oversight in the MBNMS

William J. Douros
Regional Director, West Coast Region, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, NOAA

Not only has the ecology of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary changed in the past 20 years, but so too has the governance and management of the region. All agencies, from local to state to federal, have undergone change in both the practice of their trade but also in the nature of what they regulate. This evolution of management philosophies and practices has been driven by technological advances as well as in response to changes within the ecosystem, most often declines in habitat quality or in population or species abundance. One of the more dramatic expansions has been how conventional management tools have been replaced by (or certainly heavily compete with) non-conventional tools such as education and outreach programs or broadly non-regulatory initiatives. The internet barely existed when MBNMS was designated, and smart phones or digital cameras had yet to be invented. Now science, management and education/outreach programs depend heavily upon and are clearly influenced by the internet, social media and technologically advanced equipment. All of these changes have expanded the scope of management in a region, while at the same time increasing the role the public can play, particularly in commenting on and participating in management actions.

Reviewed: September 08, 2023
Web Site Owner: National Ocean Service

Take Our Survey | Privacy Statement | Site Disclaimer
National Marine Sanctuaries | National Ocean Service | National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration |