Acidifying Seas – Investigating OA impacts in the intertidal zone

Looking North along the intertidal zone at the very tip of Point Loma, in Cabrillo National Monument. Photo: Johnny Jones
Looking North along the intertidal zone of Cabrillo National Monument, at the very tip of Point Loma. Photo: Johnny Jones
Cabrillo National Monument on Point Loma; intertidal samples were collected samples from the tidepool beach on the lower left. Credit: National Park Service.

If the scientists unloading onto the Ron Brown had taken a moment to look up from their boxes of equipment yesterday, they might have noticed a small Navy vessel cruising past the Point Loma Light Station.

It was ferrying National Park Service coastal ecologist Johnny Jones and Navy scientist Jessica Bredvik out to collect nearshore seawater samples off the rocky west shore of Cabrillo National Monument. Later that day, Johnny and Cabrillo’s Chief of Natural Resources Keith Lombardo waded into the surf off Cabrillo’s tidepool beach to collect intertidal samples. Their activities marked the first of several coordinated sampling exercises that will be conducted by the National Park Service and National Marine Sanctuaries during this cruise. We invited Johnny to contribute to the piece below. Read on!

Cabrillo National Monument (San Diego, CA) Cabrillo National Monument is initiating an ocean acidification monitoring program to detect long-term trends in ocean pH. Following protocols developed by Olympic National Park, Cabrillo NM is installing specialized SeaFET pH sensors in the intertidal zone to continuously measure the acidity of the ocean. Connecting these data sets with the current NOAA cruise presents a great opportunity for Cabrillo NM to collaborate with fellow researchers and to better understand the connectivity of near shore ocean environments to our rocky intertidal.

Cabrillo National Monument. Photo: NPS/Dan Zeller
Cabrillo National Monument. Photo: NPS/Dan Zeller

Cabrillo NM is one of the best-protected and easily accessible rocky intertidal areas in all of Southern California. Cabrillo’s intertidal zone is a frequently visited tourist destination in San Diego due to the wide variety of seaweeds and invertebrates that call the intertidal zone home. As acidity increases in the ocean, it becomes more difficult for intertidal organisms to build shells and perform functions essential for life. Cabrillo NM is concerned about the impact that ocean acidification will have on its marine biota and the ability of park visitors to enjoy a seascape rich in marine life.  In order for park scientists to best protect the diverse array of natural resources, they must first understand the threats that impact those resources resulting from a changing climate.

Thanks to our U.S. Navy partners, Cabrillo NM was able to make it out early this morning to collect nearshore water samples at two stations. These samples will help link the intertidal zone to the NOAA cruise station offshore and give scientists an idea of how acidity changes in the surface ocean as it makes its way closer to shore.

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Park researchers took additional water samples in the intertidal zone to coordinate water sampling with both the R/V Ronald H. Brown and the Smith Lab at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. Together, this coordinated sampling effort will assist in deciphering the regional patterns in water chemistry, a difficult endeavor for any researcher in isolation. While ocean acidification is a global issue, collaborative working groups such as these make it possible for resource managers to preserve the future of protected marine areas. With this pioneering research, Cabrillo National Monument is committed to addressing and managing challenges posed by our rapidly changing climate for this and future generations.

Johnny Jones
Johnny Jones

About me: I’ve been with Cabrillo National Monument since December, 2015. Before then, I was stationed at Olympic National Park under the George Melendez Wright Young Leaders in Climate Change internship. Through this joint NPS and UW internship, I worked with Olympic’s coastal ecologist Steven Fradkin to implement a long-term ocean acidification monitoring program on the outer coast of Washington and in the Puget Sound at San Juan National Historical Park. I used the methodologies and experiences from this internship to inform the current ocean acidification monitoring protocol here at Cabrillo National Monument. Cabrillo is installing SeaFET pH sensors, temperature loggers, dissolved oxygen sensors, and sea level pressure transducers to better understand how climate is affecting the organisms that call the intertidal zone home. In this centennial Park Service year, I am excited to be a small part of the Park Service mission and thankful to be working in such a beautiful National Park.

2 thoughts on “Acidifying Seas – Investigating OA impacts in the intertidal zone”

    1. Jessica Bredvic is not part of the NOAA West Coast cruise; she was assisting our National Park Service partners at Cabrillo National Monument. You may be able to reach her through her colleague Johnny Jones, who contributed this post.


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