Chapter 12: The Coastline
The Coastline By The Lilies of the Valley

"California is a marvelous place, with a greater range of landforms, a

greater variety of habitats, and more kinds of plants and animals than

any area of equivalent size anywhere in North America." (pg. 725)

California's coastline proves this point. The coastline is a large

ecosystem that runs around 1100 miles long. Within this ecosystem one

will find many smaller ecosystems. Chapter 12 discusses the different,

animals, plants, and territory that make up the coastal ecosystem.


Middle Intertidal Zone- Is uncovered by many low tides, but not all of

them, and it is covered by every high tide. It is the zone of

filter-feeding animal and highly attached algae, including small kelp or

brown algae. This includes: Rockweed, Sea Palm, Mussels, Goose

Barnacles, Leaf Barnacles, and Black Oystercatcher. (To read the

description of the coast life read the book, Pg. 642 - 693)

 

Lower Intertidal Zone &endash; This region is exposed only by the lower of the

low tides. Its upper margin is considered to be average sea level,

(average sea level is the line at which the tide is measured) if the

tide drops below the line it is called a minus tide. This zone contains:

a number of kelps (Feather Boa kelp, Sugar Wrack), Eel Grass, Surf

Grass, sea stars or other star fishes (Ochre Starfish), snails and

worms(Dogwinkle, Unicorn, Sand-Castle worm, Scaly Tube Snails, Abalone

(Red, Black and Green), Brown Sea Hare, Algae (Coralline, red), Sea

Urchins and Sand Dollar, Clams, Brittle Stars or Serpent Star,

Flatworms, sea anemones, Nudibranches, Octopus, Fish (Woolly or Tidepool

Sculpin, Tidepool Johnnie, Spotted Kelpfish, Rockpool Blenny, Bay

Blenny, Monkeyface Prickleback (eel), Opaleye, Garibaldi. Just an

interesting fact, The Garibaldi (Hypsypops rubicundus) is the official

state saltwater fish.

 

Subtidal Zone &endash; This area is offshore beyond the influence of tides,

where wave surge carries away fine sediments, leaving a rocky or sandy

bottom. This area is abundant with huge kelp up to 100 feet deep,

creating kelp forests. Interesting enough kelp moderates the wave

action, thus dispersing wave energy which help protects beaches from

erosion. This zone contains: Giant Bladder Kelp, Elk Kelp, Bull Kelp,

more than 750 species of fish (Kelp Bass, California Sheephead,

Rockfish, Gabezon, California Moray, Wolf-eel, Lobsters, Sheep Crab,

Masking Crab, Sea-cucumber.

 

California's kelp forests are constantly changing. The amount of kelp

being produced has decreased and many consider its loss to be an

ecological disaster. The absence of kelp leads to beach erosion and the

loss of associated animal species. The decrease in kelp could be caused

by increase in temperature associated with El Nino, increase in sea

urchins, or sewer plants waste and other human activities. What ever the

cause kelp plays an important role in the coastal ecosystem and we need

to find ways to help the kelp.

 

"The causes of Intertidal Zonation is a combination of abiotic and

biotic factors. These are generalizations. Upward distribution of most

species is regulated by their tolerance for physical factors, such as

heat, light, and desiccation. Lower limits tend to be established by

biological interactions such a predation and competition. Distribution

on outer, more exposed sites is limited by wave shock or colonized

larvae." The opportunity for larvae is dependent on space. The effect of

all this is that the animals stay where they can survive. Example,

Periwinkles and buckshot barnacles are kept in the upper intertidal

zones because the lower zone because they would die if they were forced

to compete with the large and faster growing species. Another

interesting fact about the intertidal zone. Water is a very effective

filter for light. Shorter wavelengths (Blues and violets) penetrate more

deeply in the water. Longer wavelengths (Reds and Oranges) are

eliminated near the surface. Different pigments are associated with

different plants, resulting in different aquatic plants live at

different depths. Differences in the distribution of animals up and down

the coast seem to be primarily a function of water temperature.

 

Most of the nutrients in the tidal zone comes from outside sources. A

major source of nutrients is outwelling from rivers and estuaries.

Estuaries are among the most productive ecosystems in the world and a

major portion of their nutrients is exported to the sea and carried

southward by the current. Another nutrients source is upwelling from the

deep ocean. Upwellings, estuaries, and the rocky intertidal region are

highly productive areas. Photosynthesis in upwillings and estuaries

fixes about 6000 grams of carbon per sq. meter per year. Sugar Wrack

(Laminaria) produces 90% of the food in the intertidal zone. Studies of

the primary production of Sea Palm indicate that the intertidal zone

produces more biomass per year than a tropical forest. It is believed

that the energy of the waves improving the photosynthetic output, for

three reasons. First, the moving water enhances nutrients exchange.

Second, Kelp is kept in constant motion thus maximizing the amount of

light shining on each frond. And finally, wave energy knocks new

organisms off the rock thus providing breeding space.

Marine Mammals are air-breathing, fur bearing animals. Seals, sea otters

and sea lions. Humans have hunted most of these animals to the point of

extinction, so most of them are on the endangered species list. There

are two families of marine mammals the Earless seals or true seals and

the Eared seals. Six species and sea lions inhabit the coast of

California. They include: the sea otter, Elephant seal, Hair seals,

Harbor seal, Northern Elephant seal, California Sea Lions, Great White

Shark, Steller's (Northern) Sea Lion, Northern Fur Seal, and Guadalupe

Fur seal.

 

Salt Marsh plant life is based on the amount of submergence tolerated by

the plants. The plant life includes: Eel Grass, Cord Grass,

Prickleweeds, Salt grass, Glassworts, Sea Blite are a few of the plants

in growth in a salt marsh. Most of the soluble material of the Salt

Marsh is carried out to sea when the tide goes out making the animal

life less abundant. However the diversity in the Salt Marsh is

maintained by environmental perturbations such as freshwater flooding

and tidal flushing. Some of the animals include: The Bay Pipefish,

California Killfish, Salt-marsh Harvest Mouse, Clapper Rails, Yuma

Clapper, California Black Rail, Belding's Savannah-Sparrow, Marsh Wren,

American Bittern, Northern Harrier, and Marsh Hawk.

 

When the tide is in, Mud Flats are covered with water. At this time a

variety of creates become active, feeding on the surface of the mud or

emerging their tubes to feed on small planktonic organisms. Algae grows

on the surface of the mud and plankton both provide food to such animals

as the: Innkeeper, California Ghost Shrimp, Slender Sea pen, Clams,

Cloudy Bubble Snail, Channel Dog Whelk, Bay Sea Hare or Sea Slug, and

Crabs. The most conspicuous animals in the Mud Flats are birds. Most are

migratory shore birds that are here during the summer and go south to

productive habitats such as estuaries. The birds in the Mud Flat seem to

be to abundant to support, so what makes so much life in this area for

the birds is that each bird is equipped with bills of different shapes and lengths, and with legs of different lengths thus leading niche partitioning, allowing the different birds to eat different food items.

Some of these birds include: The Great Blue Heron, Egrets, Curlews,

Whimbrels, Marbled Godwit, Sanderlings, Durlins, Red Knots, Surfbirds,

Tattlers, Yellowlegs, Dowitchers, Willets, Semipalmated Plover,

Killerdeer, The American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, American Coot or

Mud Hen, Northern Shoveler and many kinds of Duck, list a few of the

animals found in Mud Flats.

 

The Open Water Habitat is characterized by a typical aquatic food chain.

Nutrients are absorbed by phytoplankton, which is fed upon by

zooplankton. Plankton is fed upon by filter-feeding or top-feeding fish

such as Topsmelt, Striped Muller, and perhaps California Killerfish. And

the fish in turn are feed upon by mammals, predatory fish, or predatory

birds. A visitor to this area will see many different ducks such as

Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks, Buffleheads, and Ruddy Ducks.

One might see Scouters and mergansers or Geese, Pelicans, Cormorants,

Grebes, Gulls and Loons. Mergansers, cormorants, grebes, and loons hunt

in a similar manner, but the species have different bill sizes and can

swim to different depths, thus reducing competition for food supply.

Estuaries are among our most threatened habitats. At one time there was

around 300,000 acres of coastal marshes. Due to filling and development

80% is gone. 90% of Salt Marsh habitat exist in San Francisco Bay, the

other 10% is scattered around Oregon and Mexico. Although San Francisco

makes up 90%, 60% of San Francisco habitat has been lost to filling,

disease and other pollutants. Loss of wetland habitats has taken its

toll on wildlife. For example, a 50% decline in California's waterfowl

population has occurred just since the 1970's. Reconstruction and

reclamation attempts are restoring viable wetlands but the sanctuaries

and ecological preserves are not enough. Water diversions and pollution

is still a problem which is endangering the Wetland habitat. DDT has

been banned since 1972 but is still found in mussels, clams, fishes and

other sea life. PCB's and other toxic metals are believed to come from

dumps, agricultural sites and other landfills thru run off.

Sewage-processing plants contaminate the water killing the natural

habitat of the area.

The balance of the ecosystem is one that is and must be delicately

balanced. Human interference has come very closes to causing the

extinction of many different lives and habitats. As people become more

aware of our delicate ecosystem; pollution, hunting, fishing and the

other dangers to the coastline will start being eliminated. Let's hope

that it happens before our precious ecosystem is beyond repair.

Chp 12 The Coastline by The Mama's and The Papa's
Climate and Geography

California coastline is about 1100 miles long

Water along coastline is generally cold , winter water temp average 50

degree and about 10 degrees more in the summer.

Shape of California's coastline is a product of geologic activity and erosion

Tide pools where coastline is formed of hard rocks abound in marine life.

Most powerful force of erosion along the coast is wave action with winter waves being largest are the most severe.

Tides

The cause of tides is the gravitational pull of the sun and moon. Even though the moon is much smaller than the sun, its influence on tides is greater, because it is much closer to the earth than is the sun.

Because the sun and moon are not always in the same positions with respect to the earth, tides also fluctuate on a monthly and seasonal basis.

Marine Terraces

The staircase shape to the California coastline is the product of costal uplift and changing sea level.

Fossil assemblages in sediments on these terraces tell us a great deal about climate and ocean temperatures during various glacial and interglacial episodes.

Intertidal Communities

The region where the land and sea overlap is known as the intertidal or littoral zone.

This region is influenced by the daily ebb and flow of tides, of one of the best examples of edge effect in the world.

Three major habitats influenced by the tides: beaches, rocky headlands, and estuaries

Sandy Beaches are derived primarily from weathering of rocks in the mountains, with additional materials added because of erosion.

Rocky headlands are an example of edge effect, the rocky intertidal region of the ocean is one of the most diverse habitats in the world. Many authorities believe that most higher animals evolved in the intertidal region and tide pools of rocky headlands. Representatives of every major group (phylum) of animals are found in this region.

Splash zone is a primarily a terrestrial community that is wetted by surf during high tide.

Upper Intertidal Zone is covered by nearly every high tide and exposed by most low tides. This area is characterized by attached green algae (chlorophyta) such as sea felt and sea lettuce. Most animals in this zone are grazers and filter feeders like periwinkle and limpets.

Middle Intertidal Zone is uncovered by many low tides, but not all of them,

and it is covered by every high tide. This zone is a zone of filter-feeding

animals and highly resilient attached algae, with the sea palm and the

mussel being very prominent.

Lower Intertidal Zone is exposed only by the lowest of the low tides during spring tides.

And is characterized by kelps and animals such as the starfish, the sea urchin and sea anemones

Subtidal Zone is offshore beyond the influence of tides where wave surge

carries away fine sediments, leaving a rocky or sandy bottom. Anchored to

the rocks or sand are holdfasts with huge kelps growing in water up to 100

feet deep. Some of the fish in the kelp beds are Garibaldi, Senorita,

Cabezon, California Sheephead, wolf-eel, California Moray.

Causes of Intertidal Zonation are a combination of abotic and biotic

factors. Upward distribution of most species is regulated by physical

factors. Predatory birds are also important in the limiting upward

distribution of organisms such as barnacles and mussels

Intertidal Productivity to a large degree, nutrients come from the

outwelling from rivers and estuaries, as well as from the upwelling from

the deep ocean. Studies of primary production in Sea Palms indicate that

the intertidal region is one of the most productive ecosystems on the

planet, producing more biomas per year than a tropical forest.

Marine Mammals are air-breathing, fur-bearing animals. Seals and sea lions

range out to sea to feed, but return to land to reproducing can be

considered to be members of both the intertidal ocean zones. The Sea

Otter, however is legitimate permanent resident of the subtidal zone.

Estuaries are places where fresh water mixes with seawater. This occurs

where a river flows into a bay. Estuaries are productive ecosystems, but

there is not a great diversity of habitats resulting smaller number of

species as that of the rocky intertidal zone.

Salt Marsh as in the freshwater Marsh, the are bands of vegetation in the

Salt Marsh based on he amount of submergence tolerated by the plants. The

emergent plant that grows farthest into seawater is Cord Grass. Inland from

the Cord Grass is a belt of succulent plants like pickle-weeds and

glassworts. Animals are not numerous in salt marshes. The kinds of animals

vary from aquatic to terrestrial.

 

Mud Flats

* When the tide is in, the mudflats are covered in water. At this time, a variety of creatures

become active, feeding on the surface of the mud and emerging from their tubes to feed on small

planktonic organisms.

* When the tide is out, many kinds of various birds venture onto the mud to feed.

* Algae grows on the mud but detritus is the primary food.

* Living on the mud flats are:

1. Innkeeper (Urechis caupo), a specialized worm. In it's U-shaped burrow, it constructs a

funnel-shaped slime net that traps detritus and plankton. When it feeds the innkeeper crawls

forward eating the net and its trappings.

2. Arrow Goby (Clevelandia), a cohabitant of the innkeeper. A 2 inch fish which uses the burrow of

the innkeeper as refuge. It forages on the surface of the mud.

3. California Ghost Shrimp (Callianassa affinis). These shrimp propel through the burrows

extracting plankton and detritus. Their digging is important for the mud to re-oxygenate.

4. Slender Sea Pen (Stylatula elongata). A coral like animal which is about ten inches long and

bears sting cells. Feeds on plankton and when disturbed, gives off light.

5. Geoduck (Panopea generosa). The largest of the clams on the flats commonly exceed eight

inches and can weigh up to twelve pounds.

6. Californian Horn Shell (Cerithidea californica). Most common snail found south of the San

Francisco bay. They have elongated, spiral-shaped shells over one inch.

7. Cloudy Bubbly Snail (Bulla gouldiana). It has a thin, fragile shell about two inches in length.

8. Channeled Dog Whelk (Nassarius fossatus). A scavenger which locates its food by odor.

9. Bay Sea Hare or Sea Slug (Navanax inermis). A large snail that is located far out on the flats and

is seldom exposed by low tide. Ranges up to six inches in length. Feeds on other snails.

10. Living outside the direct influence of the tide are crabs. The best known is the Dungeness

Crab (Cancer magister). Most common on sandy bottoms and where there is an abundance of Eel

grass where they commonly feed on clams.

11. Blue Hereon (Ardea herodias). It stands about four feet tall and has a six foot wing span. It

wades in shallow water and fees on fish. They fly with their neck pulled back. Can be found from

coast to desert. May hunt mice in fields.

12. Great or Common Egret (Casmerodius albus). Almost as large as the Blue Herron. Has a large

sized yellow bill.

13. Snowy Egret (Egretta thula). Nearly three feet tall, this bird has a black bill and black legs. The

adults feet are bright yellow.

14. Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis). Seen in pastures and agricultural regions.

15. Long Billed Curlew (Numenius americanus). The largest of the shore birds (nearly two feet

long). The bill may be eight inches in length. Loves shrimp.

16. Whimbrel (Numenius phaepus). Slioghtly smaller than the Long Billed Curlew.

17. Marbled Godwit (Limosa fedoa).

18. Several varieties of Sandpipers (Scolopacidae).

19. Several varieties of the Plover family (Charadriidas).

20. American Avocet (Recuvirostridae americana). Has a black, narrow, upturned bill. Adults are

eighteen inches in length.

21. Black-necked Silt(Himantopus mexicanus). Black and white bird.

22. American coot or Mud Hen (Fulica americana). Looks like a black duck but with a short bill and

has flattened lobed toes.

23. Northern Shoveler (Anas clypeata). A duck that may be seen walking about the mud.

24. Several varieties of ducks (Anatidae).

Open water

* A typical aquatic food chain. The nutrients are absorbed by plankton, which are fed upon by

zooplankton. Plankton are fed upon by filter-feeding or top feeding fishes. These fish may be fed

upon by marine mammals, predatory fishes or predatory birds.

* Ducks of all kinds, including geese, pelicans, cormorants, grebes, loons, mergansers, gulls, terns,

and osprey are the most conspicuous. These birds were located all over the coast and around lakes

but the widespread use of DDT caused a great decline in them. As of late, many are making a

comeback. Wetland reclamation has been a big part of this comeback. DDT, though, can also be

found in fish and other marine life. Sewage discharge from sewage processing plants also

contributes to contamination of marine life.

 

Coastal Strand

* A terrestrial community of sandy beaches and dunes. Occurs where there is no sea cliff. Winds

stack up sand from a near by river. Water-holding capacity is very low and sea salts is high which

makes for a stressful environment for plants. Plants that have long taproots or are succulent can

survive here. Ice plants are succulent along with several other plants related to desert plants. The

Beach Morning glory and the Beach Evening Primrose are plants of the coastal strand.

* A dune field is a poor ecosystem. The most common animals are insects. Lizards and small

birds also can visit the area and butterflies and bumblebees can handle the environment.

 

Islands

* The California islands are continental islands.

1. Farallon Islands (north)

2 Ano Islands (north)

3. Channel Islands (south)

* Many of these islands are separated from each other by major faults and were originally located

farther south. Changes have occurred to these islands as well. For example, Santa Cruz Island was

once two islands. San Clemente and Santa Catalina were much larger.

 

Island Endemics

* Salamanders are found on several of the island. Many birds, reptiles and mammals are also

found there. There are also many native species and subspecies of plants on the islands.

 

Principles of Island Biology

* Animals and plants that inhabit islands are often relicts of former widespread distributions, and

because they evolve in isolation, they are often specialized. Most of the endemics mentioned in this

section share both of the characteristics.

* Limited food supply causes dwarfism to some animals on the islands yet others grow much larger

than their counterparts on the mainland. This may be due to the fact that all available ecological

niches may not be occupied or that existing animals live longer there and become much larger

because of this.

* Plants also show size changes. Lower water stress may cause the plants leaves to grow larger

than the counterparts.

* In the absence of heavy predation, animals lose their fear and plants lose some of their

protective mechanisms.

* There are more species on the larger islands and also the islands that are closer to the mainland.

* Once an island becomes saturated, the total number of species tends to stay the same.

Introduced Animals

* The devastation that can be wreaked by nonnative animals is nowhere more apparent the on

islands. Goats seem to do the most damage. Sheep are nearly as bad as goats. Cattle, Mule Deer,

Elk, wild boar, rabbits,pigs are also part of the island chain.


Orr Spring Scouts

Lupe Chavez, Juan Orozco, Debbie Crowningshield, Felipe Mendoza, and Katrena Dursteler

Chapter 12 discusses the many types of life, animal and plant found in the ocean, tidal zones, mud flats and

salt marshes. The chapter is well organized and describes the purpose of life within these areas.

 

Middle Intertidal Zone

Organisms in this area are filter feeding animals (mussels, goose or leaf barnacle), and attached algae (small

kelp, brown algae, rockweed, sea palm) Mussels are common organisms throughout the world and are in the

diets of many nations.

Lower Intertidal zone

The lower intertidal zone only gets exposed by the lowest of low tides and is characterized by a number of

kelps (feather boa and sugar wrack). Eel grass and surfgrasses can also be found in this zone. Animals of this

zone take refuge in or attach to these plants. Animals in this zone include worms, snails, limpets, and sea stars.

Filter feeding organisms are not common in this zone.

 

Subtidal Zone

Organisms found in this zone include huge/giant kelps (Elk, Bull, Giant Bladder), which help provide habitat

and refuge for animals, including more than 150 species of fish along the California coast, crabs, lobsters, and

sea cucumbers.

Abiotic and biotic factors such as predation, competition, succession, seasonal changes in organisms and

tolerance for physical factors such as heat, light, and desiccation, are responsible for intertidal zonation.

Nutrients for intertidal zones come mostly from outside sources such as rivers, upwelling from deep ocean,

and estuaries.

Marine mammals can also be found in intertidal zones. Marine mammals found in this zone include seals

(harbor and elephant), sea lions, sea otters.

 

Salt Marshes

Salt marsh has eel grass, and cord grass which contribute to the high productivity of estuary ecosystems.

Animals vary from aquatic to terrestrial, they include arthropods, worms, snails, fishes, burrowing detritus,

grasshoppers, birds, and mice. The marshes are home to few resident bird species. Of the five species and

subspecies there are four on the threatened or endangered list. Three are in the rail family

 

Mud Flats

Mud flats support a variety of organisms that feed on small planktonic organisms. Among the animals that

inhabit tubes and burrows in the mud are the innkeeper (worm), shrimp, slender sea pen, clams, crabs, snails,

and slugs. Ghost shrimp are inhabitance of this area and their digging helps to overturn and oxygenate the

mud. Birds also inhabit mud flats.

 

The chapter also describes estuaries as being among the most threatened habitats due to damage caused by

humans. Damage includes development, filling, draining, sewer outfalls, use of pesticides, water diversion,

pollution, and destruction of wetlands. All these factors have taken its toll on wildlife and affected their

population numbers.

 

The fact that was amazing to me is that all of the birds and sea life that are still being effected by pollution

and chemicals in the water from past days of use. Also that many species are seeming to make a recovery

from the endangered to threatened list. Another is that tidal life is in it's infancy in areas where drainage

ditches from waste water treatment plants and other industries are dumped in the ocean.



Star Thistles - Naida Blevins, Miriam Koppel, Tammy Rease, Amber Shrum
Chapter 12 (pp. 642-693) &endash; The Coastline (Middle Intertidal Zone-Open Water)

Middle Intertidal Zone-

This is exposed by most low tides and is covered by all high tides. This area consists primarily of filter feeding animals and highly resilient attached algae.

Rockweed is the most common algae found in this area, varieties include Pelvetia, Pelvetiopsis, Fucus and Hesperophyeus, these are brown algae. One of the highly noticeable organisms of the middle intertidal zone are the Sea Palms, growing to approximately 2 feet in height and resembling a palm tree, these plants grow only on bare surfaces thus competing with mussels and the like for their locations. Because Sea Palms are torn off their rocks each winter and their regrowth constant, the Sea Palm ecosystem is considered the most productive in the world. Sea Palm is considered a delicacy in some areas.

Another conspicuous animal of the middle intertidal is the mussel. Mussels attach themselves to rocks by means of their byssal threads. Mussels primarily feed on plankton. There are two species of mussel that are common in California. The smaller of the two species is the Bay Mussel, commonly found in the upper fringes of the mussel bed; the larger of the species is the California Mussel, which are found more readily in areas where the wave shock is stronger due to their stronger byssal threads. Due to their abundance and ability to grow in a variety of locations mussels are important in the diets of many nations; they are a primary source of protein.

Goose Barnacles are often found in colonies of mussels. It was once legend that Goose Barnacles, through a process turned into Barnacle Geese. This lead to various religions not allowing the consumption of Barnacle Geese or allowing the consumption of Barnacle Geese for a variety of reasons. Goose Barnacles, on the other hand, are not often consumed by a human population.

A common visitor to the mussel beds are the Black Oystercatchers whom feed primarily on mussels. Along with other predatory birds, the Oystercatcthers are important to the formation of bare areas on the mussel bed that keeps the recolonization of mussels constant.

Lower Intertidal Zone-

The upper margin or the lower intertidal is the line from which the height of the tide is measured.

The lower intertidal is characterized by kelps; Feather Boa Kelp and Sugar Wrack grow in this area. Surfgrasses are terrestrial plants that have adapted to living underwater; they have roots and flowers. Animals of the lower intertidal include worms, snails and limpets that take refuge or live off of the surfgrasses.

Starfish are also found in this area. The most common is the Ochre Starfish, once the most conspicuous animal until its population was and continues to be decimated by the human population. During high tide starfish typically migrate to the middle intertidal to feed on mussels and acorn barnacles.

Another group of intertidal predators are snails, the Emarginate Dogwinkle is one of these. They prey on other shelled animals by drilling a hole into the other's shell and eating them. These snails are also called Purple Snails due to the fact that a purple dye can be extracted from their flesh.

Because much of the lower intertidal is cover in kelp there are not many filter feeders, except in protected areas, the sandcastle worm is on the few filter-feeders that live in the protected areas of the lower intertidal.

Grazers of the lower intertidal feed primarily on kelp. The Brown Seas Hare, a slug-like mollusk feeds on bits of kelp that have sunk to the bottom. Other grazers include three species of abalone: black, green and red. Abalone are large flattened snails. Black abalone are the most commonly seen; small black abalone are found in the lower intertidal, they feed on the kelp and various forms of algae found there. Green abalone is common in the subtidal zone. Red abalone is most commonly found in deeper water, up to 500 feet in depth. These are the species that are particularly sought after for commercial purposes.

Red algae often coast the tidepools of the lower intertidal. This algae is know as corralline algae, it is typically no more than 4 inches in height and looks like pink lace, covered with a coating of calcium carbonate to deter predators from consuming it.

Sand dollars occur in the sand outside the surf line. They are rarely ever seen alive. When alive, Sand dollars are covered with a 'rug-like mat of soft spines'. The way they are often seen is their skeleton that has a flower-like design that is where their tub feet come out.

Sea Urchins are in the same phylum as sand dollars and starfish. Sea Urchins are grazers and scavengers. There are two common species of Sea Urchin in California; the smaller of the two is the Purple Sea Urchin and the larger is the Red Sea Urchin. Sea Urchins look like pincushions with long moveable spines. Purple Urchins rest in depression to help protect them from wave shock. Fresh water is deadly to the Sea Urchin, after heavy storms the mortality rate of the Purple Sea Urchin exceeds 90% in some areas. Sea Urchin gonads have become a desired commodity in the world market; it is considered a delicacy.

Piddocks are small boring clams that burrow into rocks. The multiple species of piddock clams are classified by size and the hardness of the rock they can burrow into. The Flat-tipped piddock can bore into shale, sandstone and even concrete. The Scale-sided piddock can bore into hard clay, shale and sandstone. The Rough piddock can bore into heavy clays and mud.

Other animals found in the tide pool are starfish without tube feet. Brittle Star or serpent stars feed on organic material between grains of sand. Sea Bats feed on mussels and barnacles. A small polychaete worm lives in commensalism with the Sea Bat, eating the 'table scraps' of the starfish.

Found under rocks in the tide pool are flatworms. Many in this family are parasitic. They creep along the rocks feeding on detritus at night and hid under rocks during the day.

Sea Anemones are the most conspicuous of the tide pool inhabitants. This phylum includes jellyfish and corrals. Sea Anemones are opportunistic predators; they eat pieces of mussel or barnacle, organisms that unknowingly walk over their tentacles. The largest of the sea anemones is the Green Anemone; it can be up to 10 inches in diameter, although 5 inches is more common. The Green Anemone is so colored due to the presence of a single-celled photosynthetic alga in its tissue.

Nudibranchs are carnivores. They are shell-less snails, thus the name nudibranch (naked gill). Nudibranchs are brightly colored yet they are not highly conspicuous. They feed on sea anemones.

The Two-spotted Octopus is the largest predator of the lower tide pool. They feed on crabs. Octopus are able to change their color to blend in with their surroundings, and are not often seen by humans. Octopus is considered a delicacy when prepared properly.

Fish in the lower tide pool are kelp like in appearance, to remain as invisible as possible. Most common is the Tidepool Sculpin; it feeds on detritus on the bottom of the tide pool. The California Kingfish is a small fish that clings upside down under rock with an adhesive sucker on its underside. The Spotted Kelpfish, the Rockpool Blenny and the Bay Blenny hide in the kelp that they resemble. The Monkeyface-eel is not an eel but a fish. It can absorb oxygen from the air and can survive up to 24 hours out of the water. The most conspicuous fish are the Opaleye juveniles that swim in schools; they are primarily herbivores but will also feed on detritus. The Garibaldi is the official saltwater fish of California. The juveniles are sometimes seen in the tide pools, they are a reddish-orange color with blue spots.

Subtidal Zone-

The Subtidal Zone is the area beyond the influence of the tides; it is where the bottom is rocky or sandy.

Kelp holdfast onto the rocks and sand in waters up to 100 feet deep. In areas that allow are the kelp forests. Kelp help to moderate wave action to protect beaches from erosion. In the south the Giant Bladder Kelp is most commonly known. It is the largest of all alga species, they can grow up to 200 feet in length, and it is also the fastest growing plant. Another giant kelp is the Elk Kelp, the bulbs of these kelp was a sign to Spanish seamen that land was near. Bull Kelp is found from Pismo Beach northward. It is a long hose-like stipe that end in a single gas bladder, from the bladder strap-like blades extend into the water. Bull Kelp was an important food source for Indians along the Pacific Coast. Kelp beds provide habitats for a variety of animals, more than 750 species of fish and invertebrates live there. Of the fish found in the kelp are Kelp Basses, Garibaldis, Blacksmiths and Senoritas. The California Sheephead is a major predator of the intertidal, feeding on starfish, lobster, crab, sea urchins and mollusks. Sheepheads are known to destroy an entire catch of lobster.

Common fish along the California coast are scorpionfish with their venomous spines to discourage predators. The Cabezon eats anything that it can fit into its mouth; they are considered the most important predator of abalone. The California Moray is an eel-like fish that lives in the rocks and forages for crab, shrimp and lobster during the night. In waters north of Point Conception the Wolf eel replaces the California Moray.

In the subtidal there are invertebrates as well. Lobster are the most important of these invertebrates from a commercial standpoint. They are found in kelp forests, reefs and tide pools. The California Spiny Lobster has smaller pinchers from those found in the Atlantic. Lobsters feed on almost anything, they are omnivorous scavengers. Also among the invertebrates of the subtidal are crabs, there are numerous species. The largest is the Sheep Crab feeding on attached invertebrates or carrion.

Sea Cucumbers are members of the subtidal community. The Common Sea Cumber is bright orange pickle-shaped sea cucumber found in the subtidal zone. Small black cucumbers are found in mussel beds.

California kelp has undergone a massive decrease that has contributed greatly to the southern coast beach erosion and also the decrease in animal species that live and or feed off the kelp. Factors that contribute to the decreased kelp population: the temperature fluctuations due to El Nino, the increased number of sea urchins that detach the kelp holdfasts. The sea urchin population should be kept in check by the California Spiny Lobster and by Sea Otters, but the human population has decimated those populations so the natural order is obstructed. Changes to the kelp forests and their inhabitants can be traced to the activities of humans.

Causes of Intertidal Zonation-

Abiotic and biotic factors are responsible for intertidal zonation; yet other generalizations can be made. The 'upward distribution of species is regulated by their tolerance for physical factors such as heat, light, and desiccation.' The lower limits are made by competition and perdition between species. Distribution on more exposed areas is limited primarily due to wave shock.

The result of these interactions are that drought and or heat tolerant appear in the upper intertidal zone, acorn barnacles and limpets occupy the lower zones, and mussels occupy the middle zone.

Predatory birds keep the number of mussels in check. Alga is constrained by their ability to tolerate heat, desiccation and depth of water.

Water and its filtering of light effects the plant life of the intertidal zone. The plants absorb the different colors of light depending on their depth. The deep the plant the closer to red light they absorb. Red algae grow in deeper waters than brown algae.

Seaweeds defend themselves against predators in a variety of ways. Coralline alga is covered with a calcareous material that makes it difficult to eat. Other seaweeds have chemical defenses.

The order that organisms reappear in a bare area is called succession; this is a factor in what organisms are seen when. The seasons also determine what organisms are in the intertidal when, some organisms not seen in the intertidal during the summer are found there in the winter months.

Water temperature is the primary reason for the distribution of animals up and down the coast. In the intertidal most species are widely dispersed. Monterey Bay is the breaking point, where the organisms that prefer cooler water go deeper and offshore, and the organisms that prefer warmer waters come inshore to shallower waters.

Intertidal Productivity-

The outwelling from rivers and estuaries provide most of the nutrients for the intertidal zone. Upwellings from the deep ocean also provide nutrients; these are mainly beneficial to the oceanic ecosystem on the edge of the continental shelf. These upwellings take place 55 to 125 miles offshore in southern California occurring in the summer and autumn months due to the winds blowing offshore. North of Point Conception during the summer months a high-pressure system creates a prevailing wind that blows southward along the coast, because it is blowing away form the shore it creates an upwelling of clod water near the shore.

These are areas of high productivity: upwellings, estuaries, and the rocking intertidal. 6000 grams of carbon per square meter per year is fixed by the photosynthesis in the upwellings and estuaries, kelp forest fix over twice that.

Again, the intertidal region is one of the most productive ecosystems on the planet; it produced more biomass per year than a tropical rain forest. The productivity is attributed to the relationship between wave energy and photosynthetic output.

The diversity of the intertidal is due to the abundance of niches that plants and animals can live and hide, from wave shock or predators.

Kelp grows quite fast, but it always looks about the same because it is being worn away by wave action of being eaten. Seawater in the intertidal is 'a dilute broth or organic matter'. Plankton benefit from this dissolved organic matter, mussels, sea urchins absorb this matter as well. What importance the dissolved organic matter holds is still not quite clear.

Marine Mammals-

Marine Mammals are members of both the intertidal and oceanic zones. They have long had contact with humans along the California Coast. Marine Mammals are air-breathing, fur-bearing animals, some of which are: the Sea Otter, Seals (Earless and Eared), Harbor Seals, Northern Elephant Seals, California Sea Lions, Fur Seals.

The Sea Otter is part of the weasel family; they can grow to over 4 feat in length. They are members of the subtidal community. Sea Otters live in cold environments, thus they mush eat a large amount of food each day to keep warm; they consume approximately 25% of their body weight each day. Sea Otters feed on sea urchins, crabs, abalone and in sandy beaches, clams. They use rocks to break the shells of their catch, while swimming on their backs.

200 years ago the number of Sea Otter in California was around 20,000, by 1911 because of hunting their numbers were reduced to close to 14 animals. Over the years the Otter population has increased slowly, there have been attempts to relocate Otters to help spread and increase the current population. But fishermen put up a fight because the Sea Otter would make a dent in their industry.

On the California coast there are six species of Sea Lion. These are divided into two families Earless Seals and Eared Seals. The earless seals have no visible outside ears, clawed front flippers and swim moving their torso from side to side. Eared seals have visible outside ears, wing-like front flippers and swim flapping their front flippers and steering with their hind flipper.

Of the earless seal family are the hair seals and elephant seals. These seals typically have offspring with white fur born in polar latitudes. In the past white fur was in demand, thus baby seals where often the victims of clubbing. Harbor seals are the only haired seals whose young are not born with white fur.

There are an estimated 18,000 to 20,000 Harbor Seals in California. They are found in protected inlets, bays or river mouths. Harbor Seals can grow up to 6 feet in length, and 300 pounds in weight. Harbor Seals are promiscuous and males mate with any female who is in heat. They are adapt divers and can remain submerged for up to 23 minutes, to a depth up to 1000 feet.

The Northern Elephant Seal is the largest seal of the Northern Hemisphere. They can grow up to 16 feet in length and weigh up to 5000 pounds. They are called elephant seals due to the males' foot-long snout. Once hunted for their blubber they were virtually extinct. A small colony was found on Guadalupe Island and has made an incredible recovery. Elephant seals practice polygyny, in other words, the male has a harem. They establish rookeries (breeding colonies) where mating and child birthing take place. Elephant Seals seem to feed on squid and other organisms that inhabit the lower oceanic levels. They can stay submerged in water up to 45 minutes and can dive to a depth of 3000 feet.

The California Sea Lion is part of the Eared Seal family. These are the trained seals seen at the circus. They can grow to a length of 8 feet and weigh up to 600 pounds. The California Sea Lion is not well insulated thus it prefers the tropical to subtropical regions. Sea Lions fight for dominance over the female harem, they mate and give birth on land. After the birthing season, there is some evidence that males go northward and female southward from the rookeries. Sea Lions feed at night on schooling organisms: anchovies, squid, and shrimps. They also have a tendency to eat stones, the reason for this is still not clear. And of course fishermen have a problem with Sea Lions, for the same reason they have a problem with any other animal that eats the things he is trying to catch.

The Northern Sea Lion occurs from San Miguel Island northward, they occupy remote, rocky coasts. The population of Sea Lions has been decreasing in the southern coast since the 1930s; this may be because of the warming water, the extending human population and/or the pesticides. It has lost animals and is not recovering.

The Northern Sea Lion can reach 13 feet in length and weigh up to 2000 pounds. The social behavior is similar to that of the California Sea Lion. They can dive up to 600 feet in depth and feed on squid and herring.

The other eared seals are the Fur Seals, of which there are two species. The Northern California Fur Seal visit the California Coast primarily in the winter. These visiting seals are typically females and juveniles. Along with other fur-bearing animals, they were also hunted to near extinction. Since the fur seal treaties they have been able to rebound.

The Guadalupe Fur Seal originally where found from Monterey Bay to the Revillagigedo Islands in Mexico. They were hunted and thought to be extinct until a colony was found on Guadalupe Island. Unlike other seals the fur treaties did not save them, it was their rarity that made them unprofitable to continue to hunt.

Estuaries-

Estuaries are where seawater mixes with fresh water, the most often occurrence is where river flows into a bay.

Estuaries are protective ecosystem without the diversity of habitat. This leads to a smaller variety of individuals but a larger amount of different individuals within the same species.

Fresh water is heavier than seawater thus it floats on top of the seawater. Also because of the coriolis force it flows closer to the coast in the north side of the estuary. This wedge of water moves with the tide, free swimming organisms stay in the water that suits them, but organisms in the mud are subject to dramatic changes in salinity. Overall few species occur in the transition region.

Estuaries are characterized by four primary communities: Freashwater Marsh, Salt Marsh, Mud Flats and Open Water.

Salt Marsh-

Bands of vegetation occur in Salt Marshes based on the amount of submergence that the particular plant is able to tolerate.

The emergent plant (that is partially visible out of water) that grows the farthest into seawater is Cord Grass. It can be up to 3 ft. tall and may be half submerged. Rhizomes (buried roots) connect and spread the plant. Adaptations such as hollow air filled stems have helped this plant adapt to the harsh conditions of a salt marsh by enabling oxygen to reach the submerged roots. Other adaptations of Cord Grass include salt glands, C4 photosynthesis, and nitrogen-fixing bacteria in its roots. Cord Grass is crucial in maintaining the estuary ecosystem through the process of detritus that allows nutrients to build and enrich the mud.

Succulent plants grow inland from the Cord Grass. Pickleweeds and glassworts are the most common among the succulent plants. Their roots are only covered by seawater during the highest tides. The leafless plant absorbs and stores the salt water. Pickleweeds are so named because their stem resembles a series of small pickles. The tip of the stem becomes salt filled is recycled back into the ecosystem when it drops off.

Other halophytes (Salt Grass and Sea Blite) are associated with pickleweeds. They are salt-tolerant shrubs that excrete salt through salt glands on their leaves.

Salt Marshes are endangered habitats and therefore are home to a variety of endangered species. Diversity in the Salt Marsh is maintained through freshwater flooding and tidal flushing. Together these processes produce a 'build and tear' ecosystem.

Most animals in a Salt Marsh are aquatic to terrestrial. Invertebrates such as arthropods, worms, and snails thrive in the water and on detritus. There are few terrestrial animals in Salt Marshes. Most animals survive on seeds or aquatic animals because the plants do not have enough nutrition. Grasshoppers are among the few animals that can tolerate the salty plants.

The San Francisco Bay is the largest Salt Marsh in California. It is the only place where the nocturnal, seed eating, Salt-marsh Harvest Mouse occurs. It builds a nest of vegetation that enables the mouse to conserve energy. They are unique in their ability to survive on seawater. Due to filling and diking of areas of the Bay, the (now federally protected) suitable habitat for the mouse has declined to a few isolated islands.

Few bird species reside in Salt Marshes. Five species and subspecies that nest there are listed as threatened or endangered by CDFG. Three of those are in the rail family. Rails are narrow 'slab-sided' birds that move through the vegetation without disturbing it...the phrase 'skinny as a rail' is derived from the appearance of this species. Clapper Rails are victims of habitat destruction such as damming, draining, pollution, and perdition by alien species such as the black rat. Both the California Clapper Rail and the California Black Rail are severely threatened. Another species that occurs in Salt Marshes and is endangered is the Belding's Savannah Sparrow that occurs mostly in the pickleweed habitat from southern California to Baja California. It is unique in that it can drink seawater. The Marsh Wren is a fairly common bird of Salt Marshes in the US. It feeds primarily on insects. Migratory birds like the American Bittern (member of the Heron family) occur on Salt Marshes. They are nearly motionless during the day and active at dusk or in the moonlight. They have a particular coloring that acts as protection against predators. They feed on snails, frogs, fish, and small mammals. Northern Harriers spend most of their time near the Salt Marshes though they are not restricted to this environment. Their numbers have increased since the banning of DDT because they also live agricultural environments. Most birds use the marshes temporarily and do not depend solely upon that particular environment.

Mud Flats-

When the tide is in, Mud Flats are covered with water. Various kinds of algae grow on the surface of the mud though detritus is the main food for the community. Food is also provided by plankton and dissolved organic matter in the water.

Many animals located in mud flats live in mud tubes and burrow in the mud. The Innkeeper is one such creature, a specialized worm which lives in a U-shaped burrow that is covered in an edible slime net that catches plankton and detritus for its consumption. The Innkeeper shares its burrow with other creatures such as worms, crabs, and fishes.

Other mud dwellers include shrimps, clams, and the Slender Sea Pen. The Slender Sea Pen, a coral-like animal (in the same group as jellyfish and sea anemones) is actually able to produce light when disturbed. Clams are among the most common filter feeders in the mud. They are often harvested for food but in some areas (southern California) they are no longer edible due to the build-up of metals in the ground.

Snails and slugs occur on the surface of the mud. The most common from SF south is the California Horn Shell. They feed off the detritus and birds feed off the snails. The predatory Cloudy Bubble Snail and scavenging Channeled Dog Whelk are other common snails in California.

Crabs occur on the sandy bottom of the Mud Flats, where they are not as affected by the tide. The Dungenous Crab is most abundant on sandy bottoms or in Eel Grass where they can feed on clams. Pollution and the introduction of non-native species have led to a population decline.

Birds, though migratory, are the most obvious animals of mud flats. Since birds are various shapes and sizes they are able to share a small niche by feeding from different organisms, depths, or locations. Herons are one of the most common wetland birds. They wade into the water and feed upon fish. The Great Blue Heron are often called cranes, but true cranes rarely occur along the coast. Herons appear in many locations including ag land where they feed on small rodents such as mice.

There are 3 kinds off Egrets in California MudFlats and all are white. The largest is the Common Egret that compares in size to the Great Blue Heron and has a yellow bill. The Snowy Egret has a black bill and black legs. The mature Snowy Egret has bright yellow toes that it uses to lure fish. The smallest of the 3 is the Cattle Egret, an 'old world' species that has become naturalized in N. America. They occur most often in agricultural regions where they feed on insects. They have a yellow bill and yellowish to pinkish legs. Pesticides and heavy metals are implicated as contributing factors the decline of the Egret.

The most diverse among the birds are the Sandpipers that vary greatly in size, color, and bill shape. Birds of the plover family (such as the Killdeer) are closely related to the sandpipers. They have developed the 'broken-wing act' that deters predators from their nest.

The avocet family is characterized by a narrow bill and long legs. They feed by sweeping their bills from side to side over the mud as they wade. The Black-necked Stilt, American Coot is related to the avocet family and is also common in Mud Flats.

There are 2 basic kinds of ducks in a typical estuary: dabblers (bay ducks) and diving ducks. Dabblers feed on algae, detritus, and snails in shallow water. They can become airborne without having to run on the water as diving ducks do. The Northern Pintail is the most common but the Mallard is the best known probably because of their bright coloring (green head and orange feet).

Open Water-

The Open Water habitat is characterized its aquatic food chain. Nutrients are absorbed by phytoplankton which are fed upon by zooplankton. Filter-feeding or top-feeding fish feed upon the plankton and are eaten by marine mammals thereby completing the aquatic food chain. Birds are the most conspicuous of the Open Water community.

Ducks are the most common floating hunter among birds. They dive to feed upon fishes, crustaceans, and aquatic larvae. Common floaters are Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ring-necked Ducks and Ruddy Ducks. Geese are winter wetland visitors. They are easily identified when flying in their signature V formation. They commonly feed in wetlands and grasslands. California's coastal pelican is the Brown Pelican. Their large bill and crash dive, 'pouch-net' fishing method makes them easy to spot. They typically nest on the islands of southern California and Baja California. DDT severely threatened the Brown Pelican around 1971 when only one bird hatched because most eggs were so thin that they would be crushed by the large pelican shortly after being laid. Since then there has been a remarkable recovery.

Grebs and cormorants also hunt while swimming, usually diving to chase and catch a fish. Mergansers, cormorants, grebes, and loons hunt in a similar fashion, but the have different bill sizes and swim at different depths, therefore, they do not compete for food and space.

Gulls are the most abundant of the coastal birds. Their main (natural) diet consists of fish but as we all know they will gladly accept anything that is lying around. Different gull species can be distinguished by the colors of their bills and legs. The California Gull and Ring-billed Gull are the most common gulls of estuaries during the winter. The California Gull breeds near Mono Lake and due to a reduction of the water level and predation problems, their population was in decline. There has been much debate over the diversion of water to LA that is said to be the cause.

The osprey is one of the waters most spectacular, with their dark brown top and white underside. It is a fish-eating hawk, a raptor. They construct large stick nests in trees and/or on top of poles.

Estuaries are one of the most threatened habitats. Originally there were 300,000 acres of coastal marshes and because of urban development nearly 80% of it is gone. The largest marsh now is the Suisun Marsh that is 87,000 acers...significantly smaller than what it once was. The San Francisco bay is California's largest. 90% of marshes south of Morro Bay have been destroyed. This loss of habitat directly relates to the decline in animal populations that thrive in wetland environments. Crowding and disease have also taken their toll on wetland communities, as habitat is lost and competition increases among native birds and domesticated waterfowl.

Efforts are underway to restore these communities. There are many sanctuaries and preserves to protect existing populations. Laws have been passed and are continuing to be created which protect the habitat and animals. Since the ban on DDT was passed in 1972 the numbers of many bird species has increased, though the pesticide is still found in mussels, clams, and fishes. Storm drains and sewer systems have been implicated as the cause of this pollution. Other toxins such as PCB affect wetland communities as well. They are used to disperse heat in electrical transformers and hydraulic systems. It seems as though runoff from landfills and boatyards carry the toxins from groundwater to the bay. Studies are being done to pinpoint the causes of such pollution. Clearly it is a combination of many preventable factors that are created by man.



CHAPTER 12, The Coastline
submitted by The Blue Herons (Danielle Gobert, Eugenie Steinman, Stacy Holland and Ann Mason)

The California coastline is a vast yet tightly interwoven ecosystem. An ecosystem is a community of living and non-living entities interacting in a give and take system within nature, maintaining a balance of resources. Our coastline is one vast ecosystem made up of many smaller ecosystems. Covered in this chapter are the middle intertidal zone, the lower intertidal zone, subtidal zone, and estuaries. These ecosystems are unique due to variables such as water height and/or movement and availability or lack of sunlight. Desiccation is another important variable to the establishment of a plant or creature in the intertidal zones. An organism in the intertidal zones runs the risk of being completely dried out during low tides; in other words desiccated.

 

MIDDLE INTERTIDAL ZONE ranges from a one-foot tide to a four-foot tide (+.3m to +1.2m). Predominate in this zone are filter-feeding animals, attached algaes, and small kelps including the sea palm (Postelsia palmaeformis). Another creature, the mussel, found in this zone is a perfect example of establishment due to water movement. The Bay Mussel, Mytilus edulis, is able to withstand desiccation better than its larger counterpart, the California Mussel, Mytilus californianus, so it will be found in the upper edges of mussel beds. Whereas the California Mussel being the stronger of the two thrives in the winter when the ocean tends to be more violent.

 

LOWER INTERTIDAL ZONE ranges from a -2-foot tide to a 0 tide (-.6m to 0). A variety of kelps are found in this zone. These kelps such as the Feather Boa Kelp, Egregia menziesii, are ideal for living underwater. The kelp of the lower intertidal zone provides protection and nourishment for many types of creatures such as worms, snails and limpets.

 

SUBTIDAL ZONE is below the tide and here is found immense kelp forests. This kelp can grow up to 100 feet deep and their holdfasts anchor to the sandy or rocky bottoms. Exploring the kelp beds of the subtidal zone finds over 750 species of fish and invertebrates (lacking a backbone such as the California Spiny Lobster, Panulirus interruptus). Another important contribution the kelp forests make is protecting the beaches from erosion caused by waves.

 

These tidal zones also play host to marine mammals such as the seals and sea lions who birth on land. The subtidal zone is home to the Sea Otter, Enhydra lutra.

 

An ESTUARY is an ecosystem that occurs where fresh water and seawater mix in other words where rivers flow in bays. The ratio of fresh water and seawater as these two bodies of water mix creates four habitats: 1) freshwater marsh; 2) salt marsh; 3) mud flats; and 4) open water. These habitats are home to a variety of creatures. A salt marsh does not have any one dominate creature but rather a variety ranging from the California Killifish, Fundulus parvipinnis, the Salt-marsh Harvest Mouse, Reithrodontomys raviventris and a few species of birds. The mud flats are feeding grounds both when under water and when exposed. The creatures such as the Innkeeper, Urechis caupo, feed on detritus, plankton and dissolved organic matter when the tide is in. As the tide recedes the birds flock to the flats to feed on any number of edible creatures such as fish, worms, crabs etc. Varying lengths of legs and bills of different lengths and shapes enable a number of birds to feed on a wide range of food. Also the different technique by birds such as walking or wading along the water edge opens up different niches of balance in the ecosystem. The Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias, wades in the shallows to feed on the fish. The Long-billed Curlew, Numenius americanus, walks along the water edge hunting for ghost shrimp. Birds in open water utilize diving or swimming sometimes to great depths to retrieve their food. Brown Pelicans, Pelecanus occidentalis, are birds that dive for their prey. While they are beautiful in flight their dives are painful to watch as they crash through the surface of the water. Loons are of the swimming-to-feed variety and can dive 200 feet or more to retrieve their prey.

 

As we learn more about this large ecosystem called the California coastline it becomes apparent how dangerously close a large number of the inhabitants are to extinction due to human interference. We have not yet learned how to be part of the balance of its delicate ecosystems. We over harvest the ocean food supply while at the same time dispose of our waste into the seas. The pesticides used on land run-off into the ocean and add to the pollution. Fortunately there is a growing number of people that recognize a responsibility on the part of the human species to take care and protect the creatures of the oceans.


Estuaries
by The Chickadees, (Erica Wilcher)

An Estuary is a place where freshwater mixes, usually where a river flows into a bay. In California the origin of such a bay is usually associated with a barrier beach bar, a sandpit formed by the long shore current. Because the coastline in California is rising a bay formed by a drowned river mouth is less common.

Estuaries are productive ecosystems, but there is not a great diversity of habitats. What this means is that there is not a large number of species as there is in the rocky intertidal zone, but the number of individuals of each species is enormous. Their our two boundaries in estuaries, one between the land and water and one between the freshwater and seawater that moves back and forth with the tides.

Estuaries are characterized by four primary communities: Freshwater marsh, Salt Marsh, Mud Flats and Open Water. Fresh Water is discussed in chapter 10.

Salt Marsh &endash; There are bands of vegetation in the Salt Marsh based on the amount of submergence tolerated by the plants.

Eel Grass &endash; A Rooted macrophytes that occurs farthest into seawater, grows from the low tide level to depths of about 20ft

Cord Grass &endash; An emergent plant that grows farthest into seawater and up to 3ft in height.

Cord Grass is the greatest contributor to the high productivity of an estuary ecosystem. It adds to the ecosystem through detritus, which creates nutrients for other microorganisms.

There are very few animals that live in the Salt Marshes. The kinds of animals vary from aquatic to terrestrial. Aquatic invertebrates include: arthropods, worms, and snails. Very few terrestrial animals live in salt marshes, expect for grasshoppers.

The largest Salt Marsh in the state occurs in San Francisco Bay. In this marsh there is an endemic animal called the salt marsh Harvest Mouse (Reitbrodontomys raviventris).

There are very few resident bird species in Salt Marshes. Of the five species and subspecies that nest here, four are listed as threatened or endangered by the California Department Fish and Game. Three of these our in the rail family (Rallidae). These our narrow, slab-sided birds that move through the marsh vegetation without disturbing it.

Clapper Rails, Rallus Longirostris our the largest of these rails and three subspecies of the Clapper Rail in California are listed as endangered: California Clapper Rail, Light-Footed Clapper Rail, and Yuma Clapper Rail. All three of these forms are victims of habitat destruction, including damming, diking, draining, pollution and predation by Black Rats

Common birds seen in the Salt Marshes include: Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris, American Bittern, Botaurus Lentiginosus, Northern harrier, Circus Cyaneus. Most birds seen in the marshes are using the marsh for a temporary refuge or resting place.

Mud Flats &endash; When the tide in is in, mud flats our covered with water. At this time a variety of creatures become active, feeding on the surface of the mud or emerging from their tubes of food on small planktonic organisms. When the tide is out many types of birds venture onto the mud to feed.

The primary food is detritus, along with some algae and food provided by plankton.

A variety of animals inhabit tubes or burrows in the mud, but the most famous is the Innkeeper, Urechis caupo, a specialized worm. It lives in a U-shaped burrow with two entrances up to 3ft apart.

Also common in the mud is the California Ghost Shrimp, Callianassa affinis. Slender Sea Pen, Stylatula elongara, and a variety of clams. Clams our among the most common filter feeders. The largest of these is called Geoduck, Panopea generosa.

A variety of snails and slugs can be found on the surface of the mud. The most common in California is called the California Horn Shell, Cerithedea californica. These snails have elongated spiral-shaped shells over 1" in length.

A variety of birds live in the mud flats. One common bird is called The Great Blue Heron, This bird likes to wade in the water to feed on fish, while other types of birds, like the Sandpiper feed on the organisms in the mud.

Two basic kinds of ducks our seen near estuaries: Dabblers and Diving Ducks. These Ducks consume algae, detritus, and snails and feed in shallow waters. Dabblers can spring into the air while diving ducks have to run along the surface of the water for some distance in order to reach sufficient speed to fly.

Open Water- Open Water habitat is characterized by a typical aquatic food chain. Nutrients are absorbed by phytoplankton, which our fed upon zooplankton. Plankton are fed upon filter-feeding fishes, in turn may be fed upon by marine mammals.

Ducks our the most common in the open waters. Diving Ducks, Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ring-necked ducks, Buffleheads, and Ruddy Ducks. Most of these ducks our good swimmers but awkward on land. They feed on fishes, crustaceans, and various kinds of aquatic larvae.

Geese our also in the duck family. They visit the wetlands in the winter and our usually seen in a migrating flock. Most common is the Canada Goose, Branta Canadensis, it can be regonized by its large size, up to 45 inches in length.

California's typical coastal pelican is the Brown Pelican. They dive into the water from the air capturing fish in their pouch. They nest on the islands off southern California and Baja California.
They were severely threatened by DDT in the 1960's.

DDT continued to contribute to the decline of many species of the open waters, among those species was the Osprey, a fish eating Hawk.

In spite of the 1972 Banned of DDT, the pesticide is still being found in mussels, clams, and fishes. In Santa Monica Bay, the White Croaker was reported with the highest concentration of DDT ever recorded in a saltwater fish.

DDT is not the only toxin endangering the wildlife of California. PCB, a carcinogen that concentrates in fatty tissues and therefore becomes magnified as it moves up the food chain.

Another problem that is endangering estuaries and wildlife is the discharge from sewage-processing plants. Santa Monica Bay is one of the worst areas, dumping about 425 million gallons of sewage per day.


The Coastline
The Chickadees (Sheri Walker and Nicole Iversen)

Middle Intertidal Zone

The middle intertidal zone is uncovered by many low tides and is covered by every high tide. This zone consists of filter-feeding animals and highly resilient attached algae, including small kelps.

This section discuses the various habitants of the middle intertidal zone such as:

Rockweeds (Pelvetia, Pelvetiopsis, Fucus, Hesperophycus)

Sea Palm (Postelsia palmaeformis)

Bay Mussel (Mytilus edulis)

California Mussel (Mytilus californianus)

Goose or Leaf Barnacles (Pollicipes polymerus)

The Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus bachmani) is a predatory bird of the intertidal region although it is not consider a member of this zone.

Lower Intertidal Zone

The lower tidal zone is exposed only by the lowest of low tides.

The common kelp and plants of this zone are:

Feather Boa Kelp (Egregia Menziesii)

Sugar Wrack (Laminaria Saccharina)

Eel Grass (Zostera marina)

Surfgrasses (Phyllospadix spp.)

Most of the animals of the lower intertidal zone take refuge in or attach to these plants.
Animals such as:

Ochre Starfish (Pisaster ochraceus)

Rock Thais (Nucella emarginata)

Scaly Tube Snail (Serpulorbis squamigerus)

Brown Sea Hare (Aplysia californica)

Red Sea Urchin (Strongylocentrotus franciscanus)

Purple Sea Urchins (Stronglyocentrotus purpuratus)

Solitary Green Anemone (Anthopleura xanthogrammica)

Black Abalone (Haliotis cracherodii)

Green Abalone (H. Fulgens)

Red Abalone (H. Rufescens

Common Sand Dollar (Dendraster excentricus)

Clams (Pholadidae)

Flap-tipped Piddock (Penitella penita)

Scale-sided Piddock (Parapholas californica)

Rough Piddock (Zirfaea pilsbryi)

Serpent and Brittle Stars (Ophiuroidea)

Sea Bats (Patiria miniata)

Two-spotted Octopus (Octupus bimaculatus)

Woolly or Tidepool Sculpin (Clinocottus analis) aka "Tidepool Johnnie"

California Klingfish (Gobiesox rhessodon)

Spotted Kelpfish (Gibbonsia elegans)

Rockpool Blenny (Hypsoblennius gilberti)

Bay Blenny (Hyposoblennius gentiles)

Monkeyface-eel (Cebidichthys violaceus)

Rock Prickleback or Rock-eel 9Xiphister mucosus)

Opaleye (Girella nigricans)

Subtidal Zone

The subtidal zone is offshore where it is beyond the influence of tides. Here, wave surges carry away fine sediments, leaving a rocky or sandy bottom.

Some of the Algal inhabitants of the subtidal zone discussed in this section include:

Giant Bladder Kelp (Macrocystis pyrifea)

Elk Kelp (Pelagophycus porra)

Bull Kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana)

Sea Cucumbers (Holothuroidea)

Various fish species:

Kelp Bass (Paralabrax clathratus)

Blacksmith (Chromis punctipinnis)

Senoritas (Oxyjulis californica)

California Sheephead (Pimelometopon pulchrum)

Invertebrates:

California Spiny Lobster (Panulirus interruptus)

Sheep Crab (Loxorhynchus grandis)

Masking Crab (Loxorhynchus crispatus)

Estuaries

An Estuary is a place where freshwater mixes, usually where a river flows into a bay. In California the origin of such a bay is usually associated with a barrier beach bar, a sandpit formed by the long shore current. Because the coastline in California is rising a bay formed by a drowned river mouth is less common.

Estuaries are productive ecosystems, but there is not a great diversity of habitats. What this means is that there is not a large number of species as there is in the rocky intertidal zone, but the number of individuals of each species is enormous. Their our two boundaries in estuaries, one between the land and water and one between the freshwater and seawater that moves back and forth with the tides.

Estuaries are characterized by four primary communities: Freshwater marsh, Salt Marsh, Mud Flats and Open Water. Fresh Water is discussed in chapter 10.

Salt Marsh &emdash; There are bands of vegetation in the Salt Marsh based on the amount of submergence tolerated by the plants.

Eel Grass &emdash; A Rooted macrophytes that occurs farthest into seawater, grows from the low tide level to depths of about 20ft

Cord Grass &emdash; An emergent plant that grows farthest into seawater and up to 3ft in height.

Cord Grass is the greatest contributor to the high productivity of an estuary ecosystem. It adds to the ecosystem through detritus, which creates nutrients for other microorganisms.

There are very few animals that live in the Salt Marshes. The kinds of animals vary from aquatic to terrestrial. Aquatic invertebrates include: arthropods, worms, and snails. Very few terrestrial animals live in salt marshes, expect for grasshoppers.

The largest Salt Marsh in the state occurs in San Francisco Bay. In this marsh there is an endemic animal called the salt marsh Harvest Mouse (Reitbrodontomys raviventris).

There are very few resident bird species in Salt Marshes. Of the five species and subspecies that nest here, four are listed as threatened or endangered by the California Department Fish and Game. Three of these our in the rail family (Rallidae). These our narrow, slab-sided birds that move through the marsh vegetation without disturbing it.

Clapper Rails, Rallus Longirostris our the largest of these rails and three subspecies of the Clapper Rail in California are listed as endangered: California Clapper Rail, Light-Footed Clapper Rail, and Yuma Clapper Rail. All three of these forms are victims of habitat destruction, including damming, diking, draining, pollution and predation by Black Rats

Common birds seen in the Salt Marshes include: Marsh Wren, Cistothorus palustris, American Bittern, Botaurus Lentiginosus, Northern harrier, Circus Cyaneus. Most birds seen in the marshes are using the marsh for a temporary refuge or resting place.

Mud Flats &emdash; When the tide in is in, mud flats our covered with water. At this time a variety of creatures become active, feeding on the surface of the mud or emerging from their tubes of food on small planktonic organisms. When the tide is out many types of birds venture onto the mud to feed.

The primary food is detritus, along with some algae and food provided by plankton.

A variety of animals inhabit tubes or burrows in the mud, but the most famous is the Innkeeper, Urechis caupo, a specialized worm. It lives in a U-shaped burrow with two entrances up to 3ft apart.

Also common in the mud is the California Ghost Shrimp, Callianassa affinis. Slender Sea Pen, Stylatula elongara, and a variety of clams. Clams our among the most common filter feeders. The largest of these is called Geoduck, Panopea generosa.

A variety of snails and slugs can be found on the surface of the mud. The most common in California is called the California Horn Shell, Cerithedea californica. These snails have elongated spiral-shaped shells over 1" in length.

A variety of birds live in the mud flats. One common bird is called The Great Blue Heron, This bird likes to wade in the water to feed on fish, while other types of birds, like the Sandpiper feed on the organisms in the mud.

Two basic kinds of ducks our seen near estuaries: Dabblers and Diving Ducks. These Ducks consume algae, detritus, and snails and feed in shallow waters. Dabblers can spring into the air while diving ducks have to run along the surface of the water for some distance in order to reach sufficient speed to fly.

 

Open Water- Open Water habitat is characterized by a typical aquatic food chain. Nutrients are absorbed by phytoplankton, which our fed upon zooplankton. Plankton are fed upon filter-feeding fishes, in turn may be fed upon by marine mammals.

Ducks our the most common in the open waters. Diving Ducks, Canvasbacks, Redheads, Ring-necked ducks, Buffleheads, and Ruddy Ducks. Most of these ducks our good swimmers but awkward on land. They feed on fishes, crustaceans, and various kinds of aquatic larvae.

Geese our also in the duck family. They visit the wetlands in the winter and our usually seen in a migrating flock. Most common is the Canada Goose, Branta Canadensis, it can be regonized by its large size, up to 45 inches in length.

California’s typical coastal pelican is the Brown Pelican. They dive into the water from the air capturing fish in their pouch. They nest on the islands off southern California and Baja California. They were severely threatened by DDT in the 1960’s.

DDT continued to contribute to the decline of many species of the open waters, among those species was the Osprey, a fish eating Hawk.

In spite of the 1972 Banned of DDT, the pesticide is still being found in mussels, clams, and fishes. In Santa Monica Bay, the White Croaker was reported with the highest concentration of DDT ever recorded in a saltwater fish.

DDT is not the only toxin endangering the wildlife of California. PCB, a carcinogen that concentrates in fatty tissues and therefore becomes magnified as it moves up the food chain.

Another problem that is endangering estuaries and wildlife is the discharge from sewage-processing plants. Santa Monica Bay is one of the worst areas, dumping about 425 million gallons of sewage per day.



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Marilyn Cannon, Sept. 18, 2002