Environment & Science

Santa Monica Bay natural habitats have improved, 5-year report says

File: Grey day in Santa Monica Bay.
File: Grey day in Santa Monica Bay.
Molly Peterson/KPCC

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Natural habitats in the Santa Monica Bay have improved, according to a new report from the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Foundation, though it says there are strides that still need to be taken to revive the area's ecosystem.

The State of the Bay 2015 is a report compiled over a five-year span that surveys the natural habitats and resources in the Santa Monica Bay area. According to a Bay Foundation press release, efforts to restore Malibu Lagoon and the Palos Verdes Kelp Forest have proved successful. 

Another positive finding: harmful bacteria found on beaches has been reduced, making the water at the beach safer for everybody.


Director of the Bay Foundation Tom Ford said that one problem that persists is the continued flow of roughly 500 million gallons of nutrient-rich wastewater into the bay every day. It contains high levels of nitrogen and phosphate and doubles the amount of nutrients in the ecosystem, causing lasting effects on the environment. 

“The tricky part is trying to figure out what those impacts specifically are,” Ford said. "What we do know generically is excess nutrients going into coastal water lead to more planktonic growth." 

With plankton at the base of the oceanic food web, changes in their composition lead directly up the food chain, causing shifts for the entire ecosystem.

Ford also mentioned a problem known as "coastal squeeze," where the supply of sediment to the coast has been essentially cut off due to manmade developments like dams and flood control protections. With sediment drying up and sea levels rising, Ford said that problems may ensue in the future.

"That's a bad combination. It leaves a lot of our coastal infrastructures vulnerable to flooding and wave damage," he said.

The Bay Foundation maintains a number of different restoration projects. In the next five years, Ford predicts they will still be helping to improve the ecosystem. Those restoration projects are two-part processes, Ford said. 

"We reduce the pollutant loading so that the water is of a better quality and the wildlife can survive, and now we go out there and we actively assist that wildlife," Ford said.

The State of the Bay 2015 is the fifth report produced by the Bay Foundation since 1993. 

Read the full report below. (Any possible future amendments can be found here)