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NCCOS Project

Biogeographic Assessment of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary to Support Evaluation of Boundary Alternatives

This project began in March 2003 and was completed in September 2005

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) off the coast of Southern California was designated in 1980. In 2005, NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and CINMS were considering six alternatives for adjusting the sanctuary's boundaries. Identifying how the six options overlaid with the distribution of marine resources was a critical consideration. To address this need, we conducted an analysis of the different alternatives.

Why We Care
Sanctuaries must be well designed to maximize their conservation efforts and effects. Since 1980, significant progress has been made to understand the distribution of marine resources and habitats in southern California. New scientific information may support boundary expansion to maximize the sanctuaries goals of protecting natural habitats, biological communities and the sanctuary’s cultural and archaeological resources, for future generations.

What We Did
We conducted a collaborative biogeographic characterization of the Channel Islands ecosystem, in the context of the six proposed boundary modifications. This assessment began by gathering existing biological and environmental data and then assessing the extent, quality, and position of this data relative to alternative boundary options. Finally, modeling, data integration, and assessments of resources were produced for each boundary scenario.

Project partners included staff from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

What We Found

  1. No single boundary alternative stood out among the others as a preferred choice, but several were favorable for a majority of the biological groups. See Chapter 1, page 3 for maps of boundary alternatives (Concepts 1–4).
  2. The overlap of fish and invertebrate habitat suitability appears to be correlated with nearshore environments, predominantly kelp, seagrass beds, and rocky sea floor.
  3. Marine bird and mammal co-occurrence appears to be associated with known centers of upwelling and primary production.
  4. Ecologically important areas of high diversity occur in continental shelf and nearshore waters from Point Conception through the northern Channel Islands, where spatial patterns of bird, fish, invertebrate, and mammal habitat overlap.

Benefits of Our Work

  • Information from this assessment was used in California’s Marine Life Protection Act, to determine priority marine conservation areas in state waters.
  • The California Coastal Commission utilizes the Channel Islands effort as a reference guide to examine the potential for conflicts with varying activities they have permitted. The example they mentioned to us was in evaluating a prospective request for a liquid natural gas facility in Southern California.

Additional Resources

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