Marine Landscape Ecology Lab

Department of Marine Science

The Value of Habitat Diversity in Marine Reserves: Spiny Lobster and Sheephead Use of the Intertidal Zone at the Santa Catalina Island MPA.

A guiding principle in the design of marine protected areas is that a diversity of habitats must be included to provide the complete range of ecosystem services for exploited species. This is especially true of species that use different habitats at different times in their reproductive cycles.

In this study we propose to use a long term data set on intertidal habitat composition and demography of sheephead and spiny lobster in the Santa Catalina Island MPA. This set of data is unique in that it contains information on intertidal habit composition and demographic information for spiny lobsters and sheephead in the years preceding the establishment of the MPA, the year the MPA was established and in the years following the establishment of the MPA. As part of this project we will collect two additional years of survey data which will then be analyzed in a Before After Control Impact Paired Series (BACIPS) analysis.

Our project can provide researchers and managers with strong quantitative information on the impact of the Catalina MPA on key demographic features of in populations of spiny lobster and sheephead. This project will also provide insight into the importance of incorporating intertidal habitat into the design of MPAs that target these two species in Southern California. Funding for this project is provided by the USC Sea Grant Program and the California Ocean Protection Council.

Time lapse photographs of the intertidal turf community at Catalina Island.
Time lapse photographs of the intertidal turf community at Catalina Island showing A) diurnal foraging activity by fish at sunset, B) after sunset lobsters, C) maximum high tide with foraging lobsters reaching peak densities, D) receding tide with most of the lobsters having left the site.