The goal of this experiment is to determine the threshold density of urchins at which an urchin barren will return to a kelp forest.
The project area is in the Pacific Grove Gardens Marine Conservation Area west of Lovers Point, called Lovers #3 by locals. This site had some kelp in 2019 near shore and adjacent to the targets. The experiment area is comprised of large rocky reefs which are urchin barrens surrounded by sand.
27 target sites were surveyed with help from our partners; The Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Monterey Abalone Company. 20 sites were selected and purple urchins manipulated in 2019. Additional sites within the project area are being scouted to expand the resolution and to add red urchins to the manipulation.
The Lovers #3 site is subject to typical NW swell and large storms like this one on 12-17-18. We completed the surveys from the beach and swam about 1/4 mile offshore. Urchin density manipulations began May 18, 2019 and the project wrapped up for the first season on November 30, 2019.
If the experiment is successful and giant kelp returns, the next step is to apply for permission to perform large scale removal at key sites in Monterey Bay. The concept is to get an army of recreational divers to cull urchins in 20+ acre sites.
Reef Check Volunteer Andrew Middleton made an awesome map of the SCP project area and boundary. This is still a work in progress but it looks really cool and you can actually swim the line between targets just like when surveying. Hammer not required. Check it out