by Amanda Kahn
Life abounds in the northeastern Pacific Ocean–I could easily spend a whole SCUBA dive looking at the life on a single boulder. Such dense carpets of life, however, can mask changes in the health or structure of the communities that live on those boulders. Monitoring specific regions, especially ones designated as ecological reserves and marine protected areas, is one way to assess changes in what may still look like a carpet of life, but varies in what species make up that carpet, how diverse those species are, and whether sensitive species have been replaced by more robust or alien ones.
One of those monitoring areas near BMSC is Baeria Rocks Ecological Reserve, whose original purpose was “To protect nesting seabirds, and to preserve rich intertidal and subtidal communities for research and educational purposes.” It also protects a terrestrial plant, called the hairy goldfield (Lasthenia maritima), that lives primarily on wind-swept rocky shores.
It is also the closest provincial marine reserve to the marine centre, about 13 km away, providing easy access for regular monitoring. The original detailed surveys from 1977 included species list, descriptions of different dive sites, and ecological observations. The ecological reserve was established primarily for protection, so it is closed to the public. However, various courses, students, instructors, and volunteers from the marine centre have continued monitoring through the years and provide virtual access where the public cannot go. In the video below, and in others from this Friends of Ecological Reserves webpage, you can get a look at the life carpeting the cobbles of Baeria Rocks from a 2011 monitoring trip in video and picture form. Enjoy the virtual dive!