In order to protect the diverse ecosystems of coastal California, a series of marine protected areas (MPAs) have been established. The ability of these MPAs to preserve and potentially enhance marine resources can only be assessed if these habitats are monitored through time. This study establishes a baseline for monitoring the spawning activity of fish in the MPAs adjacent to Scripps Institution of Oceanography (La Jolla, CA, USA) by sampling fish eggs from the plankton. Using vertical plankton net tows, 266 collections were made from the Scripps Pier between 23 August 2012 and 28 August 2014; a total of 21, 269 eggs were obtained. Eggs were identified using DNA barcoding: the COI or 16S rRNA gene was amplified from individual eggs and sequenced. All eggs that were successfully sequenced could be identified from a database of molecular barcodes of California fish species, resulting in species-level identification of 13, 249 eggs. Additionally, a surface transport model of coastal circulation driven by current maps from high frequency radar was used to construct probability maps that estimate spawning locations that gave rise to the collected eggs. These maps indicated that currents usually come from the north but water parcels tend to be retained within the MPA; eggs sampled at the Scripps Pier have a high probability of having been spawned within the MPA. The surface transport model also suggests that although larvae have a high probability of being retained within the MPA, there is also significant spillover into nearby areas outside the MPA. This study provides an important baseline for addressing the extent to which spawning patterns of coastal California species may be affected by future changes in the ocean environment.
Harada, A. E., Lindgren, E. A., Hermsmeier, M. C., Rogowski, P. A., Terrill, E., Burton, R. S., & Bernardi, G. (2015). Monitoring spawning activity in a Southern California marine protected area using molecular identification of fish eggs. PLoS ONE, 10(8). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0134647