Marine Invertebrates

Bottom: NPS photo
Top left: Megathura crenulata - photo Greg Sanders 2006
Top Right: Purple Shore Crab, NPS photo

Marine invertebrates represent a vast majority of the biodiversity at Coastal Southern California national parks. Several hundred species, including sponges, bryozoans, cnidarians, worms, mollusks, echinoderms, and crustaceans, and ranging in size from microscopic to several meters in length, are known to inhabit the rocky intertidal, kelp forest, and sandy beach communities within our parks. Many of these species are abundant, and serve as an important food source for many other invertebrates, birds, fishes and mammals.

Along the Southern California coast, marine invertebrates are important to humans ecologically and economically, providing essential ecosystem services (coastal protection) and income from tourism and commercial and recreational fisheries. They are harvested for food and for the aquarium trade.

Marine invertebrates are threatened by human disturbances such as overfishing, habitat degradation by pollution and coastal shoreline development, invasive species, climate change, and eutrophication. Natural seepage and spills from offshore drilling or tankers are an additional threat that can impact marine invertebrates.

The parks have a number of programs and projects involving the monitoring of targeted invertebrate populations. Data gathered from these studies provide better information in the conservation and management of our marine ecosystems. Learn more about some of these projects from the links below.