How do you know how healthy you are? One way is to regularly monitor basic indicators of your health such as blood pressure and temperature regularly. These indicators are able to provide a general overview of how your system is doing.
The same rationale applies to ecosystems; regular system monitoring allows us to understand how the ecosystem and the components we are monitoring change over time. Monitoring is one of the most persistent forms of science and while not as widely recognized as short-term, highly specific projects, has the ability to identify real ecosystem change.
Without this vital step we would never know how human activities and management actions such as climate change and marine protected areas (MPAs) affect our ecosystems and whether or not our management actions are achieving the goals we set. Initial stages of monitoring allow us to create a baseline. Over periods of time it is possible to measure changes in the environment using the baseline as a reference. Only by knowing these changes can we hope to adaptively manage ecosystems, i.e. create solutions to new problems that are discovered.
The monitoring component of PISCO grew from a fundamental need to understand the basic processes governing the coastal ecosystems.
The PISCO coast-wide monitoring program has been designed to evaluate ecosystem change over time, and focuses on the distribution, abundance and interactions among species as well as physical influences throughout the nearshore environment. This core monitoring program concentrates on manageable nearshore ecosystems (kelp forest and rocky intertidal) which have high ecological, economic and conservation value and have proven to be model systems for both experimental and theoretical studies. These nearshore ecosystems are increasingly threatened due to rapid coastal population growth, elevated human harvesting pressures and various threats related to changing climate conditions.
The PISCO monitoring program is composed of biological community structure at hundreds of rocky intertidal sites spanning the West Coast of North America from the Canadian to the Mexican borders and kelp forest sites in southern and central California. PISCO also monitors a variety of physical oceanographic variables including nearshore currents and water column temperature at many of the same locations. To view approximate site locations, go to the where we work page. Click on the following words to learn more about the Intertidal, Subtidal, or Oceanographic areas of PISCO research; also view our Research pages.