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A New Method for Monitoring Urban Beach Ecosystems Website

Principal Investigator(s):
Karin Martin - Pepperdine University
Jenny Dugan - University of California - Santa Barbara
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Associate Investigator(s):
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Objectives:
1: Develop a new method for ecological monitoring of sandy beaches that is suitable for use by citizen scientists to generate reliable time series information on ecosystem conditions of urban beaches.
2: Test the method with a scientific team providing multiple observers at different types of urban beaches in southern California.
3: Validate the method for use by citizen scientists using a focused pilot program that trains members of the public for community-based monitoring on their local beaches, in partnership with informal science educators and the scientific team.
4: Evaluate the potential for expanding the monitoring program for citizen scientists to additional urban beaches, with additional local partners and its impact on the perception and understanding of beaches as ecosystems.

Methodology:
1) A list of biotic and abiotic indicators of beach ecosystem status will be developed.
2) A set of assessment protocols for monitoring specific indicators on sandy beaches by citizen scientists will be created and tested.
3) Pilot programs to train citizen scientists will be initiated in three counties along the coast, in cooperation with local partnerships and stakeholders.
4) Selected beach ecosystem sites will be monitored by trained volunteer citizen scientists and scientific professionals from the working group in parallel to verify the data and reliability of indicators, and make adjustments to protocols and materials.

Rationale:
Every urban sandy beach in California, no matter how altered or how many millions of human visitors it accommodates, retains vital ecological functions. These functions include physical processes such as shoreline protection and water filtration, and biological functions such as nutrient cycling through food webs and nursery functions for many species including birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, and invertebrates. To date no long-term, consistent monitoring program exists for evaluating ecosystem condition on urban beaches. Little data exists to evaluate natural variation in sandy beach ecosystems. The lack of information on ecological conditions and functions of urban beaches in southern California impedes planning for conservation of these important coastal ecosystems. More data on the ecological condition of beaches in southern California are urgently needed to address current and future pressures on these narrow fringing coastal ecosystems. Enhancing broader recognition of beaches as important and sensitive coastal ecosystems is crucial to conserving the biodiversity and wildlife that depend on them and the vital ecological functions beaches provide.

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