Cal Poly Pomona Associate Professor Jeremy Claisse has been awarded $345,255 for a study “Assessing Current Biological and Physical Status of California’s Artificial Reefs with Comparisons to Natural Reefs to Improve Compensatory Mitigation Outcomes,” from the California State University Council on Ocean Affairs, Science & Technology (COAST).
Dozens of artificial reefs lie off the southern California coast. While most were built from quarry rock, others include concrete rubble, light posts, pier pilings, or sunken vessels. The vast majority have not been surveyed since their installation.
For the study, Claisse and his research partner Daniel Pondella, biology professor at Occidental College, will collect geophysical and biological information from 10 artificial reefs covering 32 acres.
“We’ll be looking at whether the reefs have sunk into the sand and what their structure is like compared to historical descriptions,” said Claisse. “Then the team will conduct biological scuba surveys on each reef – counting the fish, invertebrates and the algae; evaluating species richness, density, biomass, size structure, production and reproductive output.
“This will help us understand what type of reef structure results in what type of fish and invertebrates living on them and allow us to compare them to natural reefs to get a more comprehensive view. We will have at least a couple of master’s students and an undergraduate working on the project,” he added.
The work will provide important foundational science to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife as they update their artificial reef management plan amid calls for increased reef construction as environmental mitigation for coastal development and anticipated offshore energy projects, as well as replacement habitat for fishing areas that are now off-limits in Marine Protected Areas.
The revised management plan will also provide a framework for determining whether any decommissioned oil rigs, or portions of those rigs, will be able to remain in place since they have become rich habitat for marine life.
The grant was provided by COAST through its State Science Information Needs Program (SSINP). This year $765,884 was awarded to three different CSU campuses to support research projects that will aid the state of California by advancing the science of ocean and coastal compensatory mitigation, and associated restoration. COAST has over 600 members throughout the CSU working to inform solutions for ocean and coastal issues at multiple scales.
Funding for the COAST SSINP comes from a one-time $3 million state appropriation to the CSU for research that supports the state of California’s ocean and coastal science needs. COAST activities resulted in $3.2 million worth of new research in the CSU, involving 19 researchers and providing 56 students with opportunities to gain skills and experiences that will help them successfully join the ocean and coastal workforce, said Dr. Krista Kamer, COAST Director.