Phase 2 Restoration-Ready to Go!

Cave sign closing area for nesting seabirds on Santa Cruz Island.

This June, MSRP completed a major milestone for the program with the completion of the Phase 2 Restoration Plan!

Previously, MSRP published the Final Restoration Plan and Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Phase 1) in 2005. This document allocated approximately half of the restoration funds for Phase 1 projects. The Phase 2 Plan was written based on the findings and conclusions from the 2005 Final Restoration Plan. The Phase 2 Plan allocates the remaining funds for restoration projects to restore fish habitat, Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and seabirds. MSRP was very excited to begin the new Phase 2 projects this summer. Check out our website for exciting updates on these new restoration projects!

Reducing Seabird Disturbance on the Channel Islands

One of the new Phase 2 projects targets reducing seabird disturbance on the Channel Islands. The Channel Islands provide nesting and feeding grounds for 99% of seabirds in southern California. Twelve species of seabirds depend on the rich marine life and the isolation of these offshore islands to provide food and protected nesting grounds. The islands host half of the world’s population of Ashy Storm-Petrels and Western Gulls and 80% of the U.S. breeding population of Scripps’s Murrelets. In addition, the islands are home to the only major breeding population of California Brown Pelicans in the western U.S.  These seabird colonies are very sensitive to disturbance by people either on foot or in boats. Seabirds often react when people, boats, or aircraft get too close to them. Disturbance can interrupt their natural behavior, such as incubation of eggs, feeding, resting or caring for their chicks.

The seabird disturbance reduction project will build upon efforts that have been developed mainly by the Seabird Protection Network. MSRP is initiating a new chapter of the Seabird Protection Network that focuses on reducing seabird disturbance on the Channel Islands.

Restoring Kelp on Palos Verdes Shelf

Another new Phase 2 project will restore kelp forests on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Fish habitat in the Palos Verdes Shelf area was impacted by the release of DDTs and PCBs. Kelp forests and other types of fish habitat have been drastically reduced in this area and throughout southern California. They are also home to many fish and invertebrate species and play an important role in the success of local commercial and recreational fishing activities.

Urchin barrens have remained a limiting factor to kelp growth in Southern California. High numbers of urchins from barrens remove all vegetation before it has a chance to grow into mature plants. The urchins are also in a constant state of starvation because there is not enough food to support their large numbers. Predators that consume urchins such as sea otters, large sheephead, and large lobsters rarely feed in urchin barrens because there is no kelp canopy that provides cover for them and the urchins have little nutritional value.

This project will reduce the abundance of urchins from 95 acres of identified urchin barrens along the Palos Verdes Shelf area to a level that represents a healthy kelp forest habitat. Once the urchins are removed, kelp plants will be able to grow and establish in these areas over time.

Diver removing urchins from an urchin barren.

Commercial urchin divers in collaboration with local non-profit organizations will remove the urchins over a three year period. Monitoring of the urchin barrens will also take place to measure the increase in kelp forest habitat. Permits for collection of urchins and to conduct research were obtained in Summer 2012. Urchin removal will begin shortly after obtaining permits.

 

 

-Gabrielle Dorr, MSRP Outreach Coordinator