Rocky Intertidal

Coastal Southern California national parks are home to some of the best examples of rocky intertidal habitat in Southern California, including the tide pools at Cabrillo National Monument and Channel Islands National Park. The rocky intertidal zone is a compact and diverse area located between marine and terrestrial habitats. Hot and bone dry for part of the day and pummeled by cold, salty waves for the rest, marine organisms living within this zone have adapted to physical disturbance, severe temperature fluctuations, and predators from both marine and terrestrial environments. The intense pressure from both physical and biological entities has promoted highly diverse invertebrate and algal assemblages encompassing over 1,000 species. The diversity in the number of organisms makes the parks an ideal place for scientists to conduct research on the rocky intertidal community.

  • Rocky intertidal communities along the ocean-facing side of Point Loma are the most extensive and diverse in San Diego County.
  • The relatively undisturbed tide pools at Channel Islands National Park are one of the unique features specifically mentioned in the park’s enabling legislation.

Despite the relatively good condition of these habitats, and the resilience of the creatures that live there, they are still vulnerable to human impacts like trampling, harvest, invasive species, and pollution.

The parks have been studying the rocky intertidal zone for over 30 years. Data gathered from these studies help park managers understand species dynamics, their ecosystem, and the issues they face. Understanding seasonal distribution patterns can also help them decide the best times to allow visitors to access these sites. Learn more about some of the studies from the links below.