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South Coast Scientists Study Changes In Biodiversity At California Beaches

Photo by Nick Schooler
Beach hoppers, which researchers found are in decline at some California beaches

Scientists on the South Coast who study the biodiversity of California beaches are finding that it’s the management of those beaches – and not necessarily climate change – that’s causing major impacts.

UC Santa Barbara researchers evaluated the biodiversity of 13 beaches across the state and compared their results to those of the 1970s. They found that on some beaches, the biggest decline was in intertidal animals like crustaceans and insects that live in the sand near the high tide line.

“There may be impacts of climate change, but we weren’t able to detect them on a regional scale because of the intensity of the local impacts,” said Jenifer Dugan, a research biologist at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute.

She said one of the local impacts that led to a severe decline in biodiversity is grooming in which kelp and debris are removed.

“It removes not only the animals but the food that they rely on," she said.

Other local impacts to beach biodiversity include adding sand and allowing off-road vehicles.