Effectiveness of a small marine reserve in southern California
While relatively small, the San Diego-La Jolla Ecological Reserve is one of the oldest in California, and it contains giant-kelp-forest, boulder-reef, submarine-canyon and sandy-shelf habitats. We evaluated the effectiveness of this 'no-take' marine reserve and gauged its success according to the goals implicit in its design. To overcome the lack of data prior to its establishment, we employed habitat-specific analyses. Our study comprised 4 components: (1) an historical review of its establishment; (2) a survey of conspicuous species in kelp-forest, submarine-canyon, and boulder-reef habitats; (3) comparisons with historical data; (4) a public survey regarding awareness, knowledge, and support of the reserve. Despite 30 yr of protection, only a few sessile or residential species exhibit positive effects of protection, and most fished species have decreased in abundance inside the reserve. However, the reserve protects the largest remaining populations of green abalone Haliotis fulgens and vermillion rockfish Sebastes miniatus in the area, which therefore represent important sources of larvae. Implementation and enforcement of coastal reserves depends on public support, but the results of the public survey indicated a lack of knowledge of the reserve, highlighting the need for improved public education in this respect. The results of the study reflect the limited value of small reserves and document the inadequacy of inside/outside comparisons as tests of reserve effectiveness when baseline and historical data are lacking.