Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Discovery Lecture Series
presented by AltaSea and Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Friday, October 3, 2014
7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Tides of Change: Past trends in rocky intertidal communities and prospects for the future
By Dr. Richard F. Ambrose

Organisms living in rocky intertidal habitats are challenged by the unique stresses of being alternately exposed to air and submerged under water. They are also among the most accessible marine organisms, with some areas hosting tens of thousands of visitors each year. As a result, many rocky intertidal communities have been affected by human activities such as harvesting, trampling and pollution.

Anecdotal information suggests great changes in rocky intertidal communities since the 1950s, but there is little quantitative information before the 1970s. The Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe), established in the early 1990s to foster a comprehensive, long-term assessment of rocky intertidal communities, has compiled the most extensive information ever assembled on the status and trends in rocky intertidal communities along the West Coast of the United States. MARINe has documented dramatic declines in some species, including the spread of withering foot syndrome in black abalone and the recent catastrophic collapse of seastar populations along the West Coast, as well as less obvious declines, such as the widespread reduction in rockweed cover in California.

Long-term monitoring has helped us understand natural fluctuations of rocky intertidal organisms, and this information helps us detect the impacts of human activities such as oil spills against the background natural variability. We will continue monitoring rocky intertidal communities to document changes in response to future climate change, including sea level rise, changes in storm frequency, and ocean acidification.

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