Greater Farallones

photo of cliffs, waves and ocean

Click on individual links below to learn more about the immediate science needs for critical management issues. For a full list of management issues and science needs, please review the GFNMS Management Plan. To contact us about the science needs described below, contact the Sanctuary Research Coordinators.  

  • Esteros Habitat Characterization

    The Esteros Americano and de San Antonio are both part of Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS or sanctuary) and often go unnoticed because private landowners surround them for the most part. A complete characterization of these specialized habitats is needed in order to identify and understand any major or minor management issues and allow us to better incorporate ecosystem-based management for improved water quality, reduction and control of introduced species, detect status and trend of habitats, restoration of eelgrass beds, and identify threatened and endangered species. The characterization may be used to assess the feasibility and effectiveness of eelgrass enhancement and restoration activities, e.g. removal of illegal manmade structures, to help combat climate change impacts and promote carbon sequestration. (Updated 11/30/2016)

  • Climate Change Threats to Rocky Intertidal and Kelp Forests

    Climate change continues to pose a serious threat to the health and resilience of coastal rocky habitats along the California coast. Extreme heat events are expected to increase, which leads to increased mass mortality events. Extreme precipitation events are expected to cause greater fluctuations in salinity. Decreased pH may impede the ability of calcifying organisms to build calcium carbonate shells, resulting in the dissolution of existing shells. Increased storm activity suggests that intertidal organisms will experience more frequent and more intense physical forces due to wave action, i.e. increased “storminess.” Climate change has caused carbon dioxide (CO2) levels and acidification of the ocean’s waters to increase at an alarming rate, posing a serious threat to the health of ocean ecosystems. Oil pollution and physical impacts, such as anchoring will compound the impacts from climate change. In order to develop adaptive management actions that will help reduce the severity of impacts from climate change to the rocky intertidal and subtidal habitats of Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS or sanctuary) and the northern portion of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (sanctuary), data from existing long-term monitoring programs must be analyzed with respect to these major climate stressors and current research gaps must be filled. (Updated 11/30/2016)

  • Invasive Species

    Invasive species can cause impacts to wildlife and habitats, decrease biodiversity and limit resiliency of wildlife and habitats to recover from anthropogenic impacts, limit effectiveness of restoration actions, and compound the impacts from climate change. It is essential that priority invasive species are located, quantified and removed quickly and effectively. The abundance and distribution of introduced species are not well documented within Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS or sanctuary) and northern portion of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (sanctuary). An inventory of all introduced species was completed in 2005. The inventory should be updated and mapping of abundance and distribution are needed. Priorities are Bolinas Lagoon, Tomales Bay, and the Esteros Americano and de San Antonio. Once the most destructive invasive species are quantified, removal or control efforts should begin, if they have not already been implemented. (Updated 11/30/2016)

  • Sensitive Seafloor Communities

    Adequate protection of sensitive benthic resources (wildlife and habitats), such as those communities that occur on rocky reefs and deep sea corals, requires improved understanding of distribution and community structure of benthic communities, as well as threats such as injuries from bottom contact fishing gear and ocean acidification from climate change. There is a need for analyzing existing mapping data and video data collected during recent surveys in 2014 and 2016. Also needed is completion of multibeam mapping, substrate characterization and mapping, and video ground-truthing of rocky substrates and in areas of potential deep sea corals, such as Point Arena Biogenic Areas North and South, The Football, Rittenburg Bank, Cochrane Bank, Fanny Shoal, Farallon Escarpment within the Greater Farallon National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS or sanctuary), Pioneer Canyon and Deep Reef in the northern portion of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (sanctuary). Baseline and monitoring data should include assessment climate change, specifically ocean acidification impacts to deep sea corals, impacts from bottom contact gear, and identify which sunken vessels may be sources of pollutants, e.g. leaking fuels and other hydrocarbons. Benthic mapping and corresponding ground-truthing provides management with a portal to the health and status of the sanctuaries benthic communities, anthropogenic pressures on those communities, and recovery after restoration or mitigation. (Updated 11/30/2016)

  • Oil Pollution

    Oil pollution is a constant threat to sanctuary wildlife and habitats because of heavy shipping traffic within the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS or sanctuary) and northern portion of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (sanctuary), the increased likelihood of illegal dumping of oily bilge waste, ship collisions, and from hundreds of shipwrecks potentially leaking oil in to the sanctuary. Managers need information on the status and trends of water column and benthic wildlife and habitats that would also be impacted from oil pollution and clean-up efforts, such as chemical dispersants and in-situ burning. (Updated 11/30/2016)

  • Vessel Traffic Threats to Baleen Whales

    Vessel activity has the potential to impact resources of the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS or sanctuary) and northern portion of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (sanctuary) resources through discharge of materials and oil spills, acoustic disturbance, ship strikes and collisions in areas where there is a co-occurrence of whales and ships. Adequate protection of sensitive species, such as the endangered humpback and blue whales, requires improved understanding of the fine-scale distribution and foraging behaviors of baleen whales in relation to shipping lanes and heavy vessel traffic areas. There is a need to determine the level of risk to baleen whales from collision by large, medium and small vessels and determine if there is a need to develop guidelines or regulations that will reduce the level of risk of vessels colliding with and killing baleen whales. (Updated 11/30/2016)

  • Human Dimensions/Socioeconomics

    Human activities clearly influence the quantity and quality of Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary (GFNMS or Sanctuary) resources, including water quality, habitat, living resources, and maritime archaeological resources. However, more data on the spatial distribution and intensity of human activities and how those activities change through time are necessary to assess the level of these impacts. In addition, it is important to understand how people benefit or suffer costs from changes in natural and cultural resource conditions to assess ecosystem services provided by the Sanctuary. (Updated 5/15/2014)