Nearshore Ecosystems Overview

Gulf Watch scientists, Dan Esler, Tom Dean, and Jim Bodkin (L-R) collect community composition and abundance data at nearshore sites in Herring Bay, Western Prince William Sound. Scientists monitor the composition of the nearshore communities at selected sites across the Gulf of Alaska under the Nearshore Ecosystems component.

Nearshore Ecosystems (intertidal and subtidal areas) component encompasses two projects with the primary focus of collecting long-term nearshore species abundance, distribution, community composition, and site-specific environmental data from index sites centered in Prince William Sound, the outer Kenai Peninsula and lower Cook Inlet. These projects have long-term data sets that contain information from as early as 2002 taken at reference stations.

Why are we monitoring?

These data, when combined with data from the Environmental Drivers and Pelagic Ecosystems components, are key for addressing questions on the recovery of nearshore species from the 1989 spill and relating large-scale climate conditions to ecosystem function, including:

  • Are nearshore communities changing significantly from year to year and are these changes happening at the same time across the Gulf of Alaska?
  • Have injured resources in the nearshore environment recovered from the 1989 oil spill?  If not, can we identify or rule out other, non-spill related factors that are constraining their recovery?
  • Are changes in oceanographic conditions in the outer Gulf of Alaska shelf mirrored in the nearshore marine environment and in population trends of injured, recovering and recovered resources?