Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.
MBNEP

Updates from the Field, September 2021: Eelgrass wrack

Eelgrass wrack

  What’s that washed up on the beach?  Those who spend time in and around Morro Bay may have seen a recent increase in eelgrass washed up near local coastal access points like Pasadena Point, Tidelands Park, or State Park Marina. This washed-up seagrass is known as wrack, and can often accumulate to form a distinctive “wrack-line” along beaches.   Here at the Estuary Program, we’ve had numerous local reports about the increase in wrack. People are asking whether the eelgrass is dying, and whether they should be alarmed at the amount of wrack washing up. Local meteorologist, John Lindsey recently addressed this increase in an article for the San Luis Obispo Tribune.  Why is there …

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Predicting Rain With Tarantula Math: Where folklore meets meteorology

  New Water Year begins on October 1 Water Year 2022 begins Friday, October 1. A water year is a twelve-month period of time that begins October 1 of one calendar year and ends September 30 of the next. The reason that the water year differs from the calendar year is that, in many places, precipitation that falls as snow during the fall and winter creates a snow pack that doesn’t melt until spring or summer. By setting the start of the water year on October 1, scientists can track precipitation from the time it falls as snow in the …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Pyrosoma atlanticum

Copyright Morro Bay National Estuary Program. A child looks at a something they've never seen before on the beach. It is a Pyrosoma atlanticum.

When you visit a beach on California’s Central Coast, you can expect to find certain kinds of organic debris washed ashore. Long, ropy, stalks of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) amass in muted green piles at the high tide line. Knotted lengths of driftwood, smoothed by the rough waves, stud the sand. Bone-white sand dollars adorn wavy lines of seafoam, looking like treasure to beach-going kids. You’ll find the occasional moon jelly of by-the-wind sailor, which are stranding more often this summer due to the prevailing winds and ocean currents. And, on rare occasion, you’ll happen upon something you’ve never seen before. …

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Field Updates July 2021: Invasive Sea Lavender Monitoring in the Salt Marsh

Salt marsh channels

    Protecting the salt marsh Morro Bay’s salt marsh is a special area. It is here that our creeks deliver freshwater to the bay, and incoming tides push salty waters up through the marsh’s system of channels. This unique habitat supports rich plant and animal diversity, but this is a delicate balance that can be disrupted by nonnative species. European sea lavender (Limonium duriuscilum) is an invasive species of concern here on California’s central coast. It can crowd out native marsh plants such as California sea lavender (Limonium californicum) and endangered salt marsh bird’s beak (Chloropyron maritima) by outcompeting …

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Photograph Friday: Wild Names for Wildlife in Morro Bay

Strawberry anemone, Ken-ichi U. Flickr

Wild names for wildlife A diversity of wildlife populates the Morro Bay estuary and the variety of habitats that surround it, from the low-lying saltmarsh to the rocky tops of the Morros. Each of these species has at least one, typically two, and sometimes a plethora of names. Take the six-legged, many-egged specimen below. Meet the toe-biter (Abedus genus): a bug of many names This is an aquatic bug that lives in the creeks that drain into Morro Bay. It’s a bug with many common names: toe-biter, true bug, giant water bug, and ferocious water bug. Scientifically speaking, it’s a member …

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Snapshot Cal Coast 2021: Calling All Community Scientists to Document Morro Bay’s Diversity

    Most of California, and the entire California coast, is identified as a Global Biodiversity Hotspot, called the California Floristic Province. Like the other Global Hotspots, this area has a high number of species that are endemic, meaning that they are native to this area and are found nowhere else. Every year, The California Academy of Sciences (CAS) asks people to document this extreme biodiversity through a bioblitz event called Snapshot Cal Coast. During the bioblitz, citizen scientists use iNaturalist to document all of the flora and fauna that they find in a specific coastal location. This year, the sixth …

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Field Updates May 2021: Spring Eelgrass Monitoring

Makenzie, our Monitoring Projects Coordinator, at our site located on the Sandspit. Staff access the site via stand up paddle boards

  A quick introduction… Hi everyone! My name is Bret, and I am the new Monitoring Projects Manager for the Estuary Program. I’m a recent transplant from the Midwest, but the West Coast has been calling to me for quite some time. As I get settled here in Morro Bay, I look forward to learning more about our estuary as well as how to be a steward of our watershed. I arrived in Morro Bay at the beginning of April, just in time for bioassessment (you can read more about bioassessment in our April Field Updates blog post). I really …

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Morro Bay Wildlife Spotlight: Striped Shore Crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes)

a striped shore crab peeks out from under a rock.

Striped shore crab identification and habitat What striped shore crabs look like The striped shore crab is a type of crustacean, about one to two inches (or 3 to 5 centimeters) wide.  Their carapace (i.e. hard, upper shell) is a very dark purple, red, or even green, and lined with bright yellow-green stripes. Though this color combination makes striped shore crabs eye catching when you see them out in the open, it helps them disappear into dark, rocky crevices where they hide amongst sea lettuce, rock weed, and bits of kelp. Its pincers, also known as chelae, are often a …

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Field Updates April 2021: Bioassessment Highlights and Volunteer Support

Staff member holds a rock during bioassessment

    What is bioassessment? For those of you unfamiliar with this effort, our annual spring bioassessment is our largest survey effort of the year. This survey effort focuses on the biological assessment of ten local creeks within the Morro Bay watershed, using an evaluation protocol created by the Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP) and the State of California. Bioassessment surveys utilize a number of different criteria to assess creek health, with the primary focus being the assessment of benthic macroinvertebrates (BMIs). BMIs can be used as a proxy to determine stream health, since the abundance or absence of …

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MORRO BAY WATERSHED NATIVE PLANT SERIES: Riparian Plant Communities

    This series of native plant blog posts has explored the different plants found throughout the Morro Bay watershed. A watershed is an area where freshwater creeks and streams flow from higher ground down towards the ocean. Riparian zone plants reach deep when streams run dry In the Morro Bay Watershed, some creeks and streams flow year round, and some don’t. Even though they’re not full of water, dry creek beds are still bordered by vegetation. This is due to the presence of groundwater, which is water that exists beneath Earth’s surface in soil pore spaces (the space between …

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