Pacific Coastal & Marine Science Center
Human Impacts and Geological Processes in Southern California Urban Ocean
Southern CA hosts one of the largest economy in the United States. Industrial and agricultural development as well as societal needs from one of the largest metropolitan areas have continuously changed the natural landscape and coastal/marine ecosystems since the European settlement. The negative consequences of the human activities are apparent: disappearing wetlands, polluted estuaries and oceans, eroding beaches and coastlines, and declining fisheries. With the projected climate change for the coming decades, these negative impacts on the health of ocean as well as human are likely to be exacerbated. In order to be able to model and forecast the magnitude and frequency of these natural and anthropogenic changes, one needs to have a better understanding of the local and regional geological and oceanographic processes as well as the history of the products from these processes. Moreover, knowledge on the past, present, and future status and trend of geological controls, physical forcing, and the coastal ecosystem in an urban setting are key ingredients in developing sensible coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) products.
Our objective is to attain improved understanding of the history of anthropogenic impacts and the geological and oceanographic processes that alter and redistribute such impacts in a coastal urban setting. By studying the history of sedimentation processes in high-sedimentation-rate environments with well-preserved sediment records such as coastal wetlands/marshes and submarine canyons, the magnitude and frequency of natural (floods, storms) as well as anthropogenic (European settlement, agricultural development [DDT], etc) events in late Holocene can be characterized. With continued development of the Coastal Storm Modeling System, beach and nearshore morphological change over a range of spatial and temporal scales can be identified and quantified. Our goal is to tie the historical perspective with the knowledge of geological and oceanographic processes, which control the input, redistribution, and eventual deposition of land-based material (sediment, nutrient, contaminant, groundwater), to help forecast the future trend under the projected climate change (sea-level rise, for instance).
This project continues and expands the goals of the two previous projects (S. CA Regional Investigation [Fiscal Years 2000-2005], and CA Urban Ocean Project [Fiscal Years 2006-2010]) to understand human impact on the ocean and ocean's impact upon humans in CA urban centers. It contains the following thrusts:
All of these issues are critical to the California urbanized coastal zone. By approaching these problems in a collaborative, multi-disciplinary way, we can maximize our impact while minimizing our costs. We can also gain by advancing our state of knowledge regarding processes affecting the coastal zone and specifically the geology of California.Research results contribute to answer the challenges highlighted in the USGS 2007-2017 science strategies (USGS circular 1309):
The project is also aimed to contribute collectively to the priorities listed in the West Coast Governors Agreement (WCGA) on Ocean Health. In the course of the project, we will adjust the number and direction of the tasks/subtasks based on interest in the local communities, availability of external funds, potential for external funds, and scientific significance. This would allow us to work with external groups and be able to draw upon their expertise (e.g., contaminant levels and effects) so usefulness and impact of our work can be maximized.