National Park Service

North Coast and Cascades Network (NCCN)

Intertidal Monitoring

Marine scientist assessing a monitoring site at Olympic NP
Marine scientist assessing a monitoring site at Olympic NP

Resource Briefs

Monitoring Reports

Intertidal Monitoring Protocol

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For more information contact: Steven Fradkin

Importance & Issues

Intertidal communities are particularly important because of their tight ecological linkage with the near-shore coastal ocean. This tight linkage is manifested in nutrient transport and direct exchange of organisms between these zones. Most benthic invertebrates and macroalgae have pelagic life-stages that live in the near-shore coastal ocean and contribute to its highly productive food web.

Intertidal communities are vulnerable to a host of anthropogenic stressors, such as pollution (e.g. oil spills), harvest, trampling, and global climate change. Intertidal communities are valuable vital signs of important changes in the near-shore marine ecosystem and are themselves a valuable indicator of marine water quality.

Parks Monitored


Monitoring Objectives

  • Determine the range of natural variation in species richness, abundance, and distribution (elevational and coast-wide) of intertidal invertebrates and macroalgae in rock platform and sand beach habitats.
  • Determine the temporal and spatial change in physical habitat types.
  • Determine long-term trends in intertidal water temperatures across the range of coastal nearshore oceanographic cells.
  • Determine long-term summer trends in nearshore marine water quality.

Potential Measures

  • Intertidal Zone Health
    • Communities
    • Invertebrate and Macroalgae
      • Rock Platform Habitat (21% of OLYM)
      • Sand Beach Habitat (30% of OLYM)
  • Intertidal Habitat
  • Water Quality
    • Temperature
    • Invertebrate and Macroalgal communities

Management Applications

By determining the range of natural variation in assemblage composition, abundance, and elevational distribution, park managers will be able to detect impacts from stressors that include changes in water quality, harvest pressure, pollution, and global climate change.

Determination of changes in habitat distribution and abundance can directly influence management decisions that can lead to the limitation of habitat alteration. Determination of intertidal temperatures will directly inform park managers about how changes in oceanographic processes affect intertidal organisms and will enable managers to better interpret any changes in intertidal invertebrate and macroalgal communities.

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Last Updated: December 30, 2016 Contact Webmaster