Student Research

An Evaluation of Management Strategies to Protect Rocky Intertidal Species from the Impacts of Human Activities: A Look into the Past, the Present, and the Future

In urbanized southern California, as well as other locations around the world, marine rocky intertidal habitats are frequented during low tide periods by a large number of human visitors. The activities of visitors, such as collecting, rock turning, trampling, and handling, are known to have multiple harmful effects, including a reduction in the abundance of faunal/floral populations, a loss of biodiversity, shifts in the size/age structure of populations, and alterations of normal ecosystem. In the mid‐1990s, a series of studies were conducted at eight rocky intertidal locations in Orange County, CA to quantify and characterize the behavior of human visitors and to determine if the abundances of key target species varied among sites relating to the levels of visitation. The research suggested that human behaviors have adversely impacted these target species despite organisms at these sites being legally protected under Marine Protected Area (MPA) regulations. In the decade following these studies, a series of supplemental management strategies, in addition to the long‐standing MPA regulations, were enacted by the Orange County Marine Protected Area Council (OCMPAC) to alleviate some of these detrimental human activities. As with any management policy, it is vital to evaluate the effectiveness of conservation strategies to determine if adaptive management policies need to be set in place. In this case, I am testing the effectiveness of OCMPAC supplemental management strategies to determine if the methods used both adequately reduce deleterious human activities while preserving and enhancing the populations of target species.

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