The value of habitat diversity in marine reserves: spiny lobster use of the intertidal zone at the Santa Catalina Island MPA

Focus Areas Current Projects > The value of habitat diversity in marine reserves
Corey Garza, California State University, Monterey Bay

The Marine Protected Life Protection Act (MLPA) mandated the establishment of a statewide system of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) in California are a relatively new and promising approach to managing commercially exploited marine species. However, in order for MPAs to be effective a diversity of habitats that incorporate all necessary ecosystem services for targeted species must be included in their design. Habitat consideration is commonly considered at large scales, while fine-scale habitat considerations are infrequent. The Southern California spiny lobster (Panulirus interruptus) is an exploited species which MPAs have been designed to target in Southern California. Previous work suggest that this species utilizes the intertidal zone for foraging at high tide; however the relative importance of this habitat in the early design of MPAs was not considered and may not be well represented. This study will focus on evaluating the importance of the intertidal fine-scale habitat for spiny lobsters and whether this habitat is well represented within an existing MPA on Santa Catalina Island.

The intellectual merit of this study consists of providing new understanding of spiny lobster foraging behavior and habitat utilization, and further insight towards the importance of fine-scale habitat consideration and incorporation into MPA design. Spiny lobsters have largely been thought of as a subtidal species, and this study will provide new information on the behavior and ecology of this species relative to the intertidal habitat. The underlying intertidal habitat could potentially be a valuable energetic input for spiny lobster populations, and act as a metric for reserve success. The incorporation of critical habitat has become an acknowledged criterion of MPA design, and a review of the Catalina MPA as a case study will shed light on the importance of its consideration and inclusion in the design process, as the Catalina MPA was created prior to this understanding.

This study can assist fisheries managers and key stakeholders in identifying how the inclusion of the intertidal fine-scale habitat in the design of MPAs can enhance current fishery management practices in Southern California as well as other regions. The importance of looking across multiple scales of habitat organization, rather than just large scale habitat components, will be revealed through this study. The adaptive management policy described in the MLPA will be recommended if the results reveal that the intertidal fine-scale habitat is indeed important for spiny lobsters and is not well represented within the current design of the Catalina MPA. This study acts as an example of how the consideration of the intertidal fine-scale habitat can enhance MPA design and inform adaptive management of target species around the world.

  • USC Sea Grant
  • 3454 Trousdale Pkwy, CAS 200
  • Los Angeles, CA 90089-0373
  • (213) 740 - 1961