Surrounded by the sea, each of the Channel Islands is fringed by miles of coastal beaches, dunes, wetlands, lagoons, caves, and rocky intertidal areas. The protected shores of Channel Islands National Park host some of the most well-preserved examples of these different kinds of coastal habitats remaining in California.
These borderlands offer a unique mix of essential terrestrial and aquatic habitats for mammals, birds, fish, and invertebrates to feed, rest, and reproduce. Despite their relatively good condition, and the resilience of the creatures that live there, the park’s coastal habitats are still vulnerable to human impacts like trampling, harvest, invasive species, and pollution.
The importance of these habitats, and their vulnerability to these kinds of threats, prompted Channel Islands National Park to start a long-term rocky intertidal monitoring program in 1982. The park also monitors the population dynamics of important beach and lagoon organisms like sand crabs, beach hoppers, olive snails, and Pismo clams, as well as the amount of beach wrack available for shelter and foraging, and the general physical cycles of the coastal lagoons on Santa Rosa Island.
Did You Know?
The world's most complete pygmy mammoth specimen was discovered on Santa Rosa Island in 1994. These miniature mammoths, only four to six feet tall, once roamed island grasslands and forests during the Pleistocene.