The Southern California Bight Nutrient Loading Study

The coastal zone of Southern California is a highly built-up urban environment. Development in this region has been shown to significantly alter both the timing and rate of runoff releases to coastal waters and can affect water quality through addition of sediment, toxic chemicals, pathogens, and nutrients.  These nutrients provide ideal conditions for algal growth, which cause an increase in algal cells or a ‘bloom.’ Some algae contain harmful toxin which at high concentrations during algal blooms can have harmful impacts the ecosystem and the coastal economies; these are referred to as harmful algal blooms (HABs).

In 2008, the OPC provided $440,000 to the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project  (SCCWRP) to assess the magnitude and effects of anthropogenic and natural nutrient loadings in the Southern California Bights.   Funds for this  project are being used to sample and analyze nutrient loading from a variety of sources,  including gliders supplied by the Southern California Coastal Ocean Observing Systems (SCOOS).  This information will serve to more thoroughly evaluate coastal processes that affect nutrient budgets and bloom responses in particular areas.   In particular, the project will evaluate the influence of nutrient sources on algal bloom events, particularly harmful algal blooms (HABS) that negatively impact the environment, human health, marine wildlife and coastal economies.  The study can offer important information about how to effectively monitor and combat chronic or sporadic nutrient loads throughout California’s waterways and can be used by state regulators and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to determine if and how nutrient discharges to the oceans need to be more tightly controlled.

Project Partners
Southern California Coastal Waters Research Project (SCCWRP)
Southern California Ocean Observing System (SCOOS)
California Harmful Algal Bloom Monitoring and Alert Program (HABMAP)


Staff Recommendation (Nov 2008)
Second Regional Workshop on Harmful Algal Blooms in California Coastal Waters Workshop Proceedings (July 2010)