A Landscape Ecology Approach to Informing the Ecology and Management of Coastal Marine Species and Ecosystems
Understanding what drives the distribution, abundance, structure and dynamics of populations and communities, and how this knowledge can inform effective conservation and management, are among the most fundamental goals of basic and applied ecology. Approaches developed in the field of landscape ecology have much to offer for achieving these goals. For my dissertation, I first conducted an extensive review of the literature for different approaches to applying landscape ecology in advancing our understanding of attributes of populations, communities and ecosystems, and its application to spatial approaches to conservation and management. In Chapter 1, I applied some of these insights to determine the importance of environmental variables on the spatial and temporal persistence of stands of giant kelp (Macrocystis pyrifera) along the central coast of California. I also used that knowledge to create a model to predict geographic patterns of giant kelp persistence and tested the accuracy of those predictions with empirical data. This chapter revealed strong relationships between giant kelp persistence and several environmental variables, which contributed to a model that accurately predicted spatial patterns of kelp persistence. Chapter 2 used similar environmental variables to quantify the relationships between the density of seven species of nearshore fishes, as well as the structure of the fish assemblage, with geomorphic and oceanographic habitat attributes. Again, this chapter identified several environmental variables that explained and predicted variation in the density and diversity of nearshore fishes along the coast of central California. In Chapter 3, I used landscape ecology approaches to evaluate the design of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs) along the central coast of California. I tested how well habitat representation and replication was achieved in the design of the MPA network and found that across the network, these design criteria were well met, but shortfalls occurred for individual MPAs. This dissertation demonstrates how landscape ecology can be applied to the marine environment to understand what drives the distribution, abundance and dynamics of populations, the structure and diversity of the communities they constitute, and how this knowledge can be used in applications to conservation and management.