On rocky shores, invertebrates and algae live in horizontal zones between the high and low tide marks. The zones reflect the varying abilities of species to tolerate the environmental conditions, predation, and competitive pressures at different heights. Intertidal organisms must survive in both terrestrial and marine worlds, transitioning as often as twice each day with the tides. Despite this apparent adversity, rocky shores are home to a striking diversity of species.
Rocky shores have become a favorite testing ground and experimental ‘laboratory’ for ecologists worldwide. Thanks to their steep environmental gradient, their two-dimensional structure, and the rapid turnover of their abundant sessile or slow-moving organisms, wave swept rocky shores make it practical for ecologists to conduct experiments that would be difficult or impossible elsewhere. Much of what we know about the ecological importance of processes such as competition, recruitment, predation, and patch dynamics has been tested on rocky shores.
Although rocky shores are a comparatively minor habitat on Earth in terms of area, they have played a disproportionately large role in our understanding of ecological systems. As we move into an era of accelerated global climate change and increasing human pressures, the extensive past work in the intertidal zone may serve as a valuable baseline against which to measure the effects of environmental shifts.
PISCO’s research focus on rocky shore habitats reflects their ecological and scientific importance along the coastal region of the California current ecosystem. We continue to monitor biologically important variables such as population replenishment, community structure and biodiversity as well as physically relevant parameters such as organism body temperatures, submersion times and wave forces in an effort to characterize the importance of processes driving the structure and function of these ecosystems and how they may be affected by changing climate conditions.
- Long-term studies in the rocky intertidal
- Marine protected areas
- Responding to oil spills
- Sea star wasting
- Rocky intertidal community, biodiversity, and sea star survey protocols