Overall Rating Silver
Overall Score 57.87
Liaison Elias Platte-Bermeo
Submission Date July 29, 2021

STARS v2.2

University of Southern California
OP-10: Biodiversity

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 2.00 / 2.00 Elias Platte-Bermeo
Sustainability Program Assistant
Office of Sustainability
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution own or manage land that includes or is adjacent to legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, or regions of conservation importance?:
Yes

A brief description of the legally protected areas, internationally recognized areas, priority sites for biodiversity, and/or regions of conservation importance:

The USC Wrigley Marine Science Center (WMSC) occupies approximately 7.8 acres of 107 acres located near the community of Two Harbors on Catalina Island off the Southern California coast. The property is surrounded by or partially located within a Los Angeles County-designated Significant Ecological Area (SEA), both Blue Cavern Point and Upper Isthmus Canyon SEAs are in the WMSC area.

The Blue Cavern Point SEA occupies the easternmost portion of the WMSC property and the Upper Isthmus Canyon SEA is offsite to the southeast. The Blue Cavern Point SEA IS noteworthy FOR the sea-bluff succulent scrub, highlighted by island endemic or near-endemic Constancea (Eriophyllum) nevinii, Leptosyne (Coreopsis) gigantea, Deinandra (Hemizonia) clementina, Dudleya virens ssp. hassei, D. virens ssp. insularis, Eriogonum giganteum var. giganteum, and E. grande var. grande.

Santa Catalina Island contains populations of endemic species, including Endangered or Threatened species. Santa Catalina Island presumably serves as a concentrated resting and feeding area for marine mammals and coastal nesting sea birds. Several of the plant communities on Santa Catalina Island are unique in their species assemblage and represent geographic limits of the community. Santa Catalina Island encompasses many, mostly undisturbed examples of the original island community types including maritime succulent scrub, southern coastal bluff scrub, island chaparral; island oak woodland, island ironwood forest, and island cherry woodland.

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The Northwest Santa Catalina Island Area of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) is located at the western end of the Island (33°27’ north latitude, 118°33’ west longitude). It includes most of the area west of Two Harbors (known locally as the Isthmus) (SWRCB 1979). The ASBS encompasses 13,235 acres (20.68 mi2; 53,561,672 m2) of various coastal marine habitats. The length of coastline included in the ASBS is 20.9 miles (33.599 km), encompassing about 1.34% of California’s coastline. A small portion of Northwest Catalina Island ASBS overlaps all of Arrow Point to Lion Head Point Invertebrate Area (MPA).
The ASBS is included in this designation for the following reasons: 1. it has a diversity of habitat and biological assemblages; 2. it is possibly a transitional zone between subtidal area containing predominantly northern and southern species; 3. due to the proximity to USC’s Catalina Marine Science Center, many scientific studies have yielded valuable information about the area.

More information: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/ocean/docs/asbs/draft_data_report.pdf


Has the institution conducted an assessment to identify endangered and vulnerable species (including migratory species) with habitats on land owned or managed by the institution?:
Yes

A list of endangered and vulnerable species with habitats on land owned or managed by the institution, by level of extinction risk:

An assessment of the property was completed by ESA PCR (shortly after merger of PCR Corporation and ESA) in September 2016 for which a biological constraints analysis was prepared. A subsequent Biota Report was prepared by ESA in January 2017. The following special-status wildlife species were recorded or have a high potential to occur within or nearby the WMSC:

Burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia) – found in nonnative grassland
Santa Catalina Island fox (Urocyon littoralis catalinae) – found in many scrub habitats

The following special-status plant species were recorded or have a high potential to occur within or nearby the WMSC:

Nevin’s woolly sunflower (Constancea nevinii) – found in coastal bluff scrub
Island tarplant (Deinandra clementina) – found in coastal bluff scrub
Catalina Island dudleya (Dudleya virens ssp. hassei) – found in coastal bluff scrub
Island green dudleya (Dudleya virens ssp. insularis) – found in coastal bluff scrub
Catalina crossosoma (Crossosoma californicum) – found in coastal scrub
Santa Catalina Island manzanita (Arctostaphylos catalinae) – found in chaparral
Channel Island scrub oak (Quercus pacifica) – common in chaparral
Island poppy (Eschscholzia ramosa) – found in coastal scrub
Showy island snapdragon (Gambelia speciosa) – found in coastal bluff scrub
Santa Catalina Island buckwheat (Eriogonum giganteum var. giganteum) – found in coastal bluff scrub
Island buckwheat (Eriogonum grande var. grande) – found in coastal bluff scrub
Santa Catalina Island bedstraw (Galium catalinense ssp. catalinense) – found in coastal scrub
California box-thorn (Lycium californicum) – found in coastal bluff scrub

Black Abalone (Haliotis cracherodii) - There are black abalone habitat throughout the Blue Caverns On-shore SMCA
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) - Part of the home range of a mature breading pair whose nest in in Cat Harbor approximately 0.5-1 miles away. They hunt in our cove and on our property regularly.
Santa Catalina Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis catalinae)

Recovered species:
Pacific Brown Pelican
American Peregrine Falcon

Not endangered but protected:
Giant Seabass
Seagrasses (Zostera marina and Phylospadix)
Sea Palms

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During the Marine Life Protect Act (MPLA) process, ecosystem (habitat and species) assessments were conducted statewide. They identified species most likely to benefit from MPA protection. This list included endangered and threatened species, sensitive habitats, and key and unique species.

Species likely to benefit from establishing an MPA are those, whose home range, behavior, reproduction, exploitation rate or population status indicates that they may benefit from spatial management. This includes species that are directly targeted by fisheries, those which are caught incidental to fishing for the target species (bycatch) and which cannot be returned to the water with a high rate of survival, and those which may be indirectly impacted through ecological changes within MPAs.

For a list of species likely to benefit from MPAs statewide: www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/mpa/species.asp
For a list of species likely to benefit from south coast MPAs: www.dfg.ca.gov/marine/pdfs/binders_sc/b2q.pdf


Has the institution conducted an assessment to identify areas of biodiversity importance on land owned or managed by the institution?:
Yes

A brief description of areas of biodiversity importance on land owned or managed by the institution:

An assessment of the property was completed by ESA PCR (shortly after merger of PCR Corporation and ESA) in September 2016 for which a biological constraints analysis was prepared. A subsequent Biota Report was prepared by ESA in January 2017.

The following sensitive habitats were documented as occurring within the WMSC property:

Catalina Cherry Chaparral
Coast Prickly Pear Shrubland
Island Scrub Oak Chaparral
Lemonade Berry Scrub
Maritime Succulent Scrub
Purple Needlegrass Grassland
Toyon Chaparral

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The following assessments have also been conducted:
- PISCO Biodiversity Survey every 3 years http://www.piscoweb.org/our-work-0
-MARINe Monitoring Program bi-annually http://www.piscoweb.org/rocky-intertidal-study-0
-Reef Check conducted annually

See additional documentation for a description of the Blue Caverns Marine Protected Area (MPA)


The methodologies used to identify endangered and vulnerable species and/or areas of biodiversity importance and any ongoing assessment and monitoring mechanisms:

Focused plant surveys were conducted following published agency guidelines by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) by walking transects, where feasible, and making close observations at ground level during the respective blooming periods of potential plant species to ensure detection of the special-status plants. The potential for special-status plant species was assessed based upon the known occurrence of species in the area and the presence or absence of suitable habitat within the project site based on plant community mapping.

The potential for special-status wildlife species was assessed based upon the known occurrence of species in the area as identified from CDFW and USFWS databases, and the presence or absence of suitable habitat within the project site based on plant community mapping. All wildlife species observed within the project site, as well as any diagnostic sign (call, tracks, nests, scat, remains, or other sign), were recorded in field notes.

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Visit this website link for methodology used to assess biodiversity inside the Blue Caverns State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA): https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Cumulative-number-of-species-of-marine-macroalgae-plants-invertebrates-and-fishes-n_fig2_350327907


A brief description of the scope of the assessment(s):

This assessment is based on information compiled through field reconnaissance and appropriate reference materials. Surveys included a general biological survey, vegetation mapping and a focused survey for special-status plant species.

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Visit this website link for a scope of the assessment of the Blue Caverns SMCA: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Cumulative-number-of-species-of-marine-macroalgae-plants-invertebrates-and-fishes-n_fig2_350327907

Additional info: http://www.piscoweb.org/our-work-0


A brief description of the plans or programs in place to protect or positively affect identified species, habitats, and/or ecosystems:

A biological monitor should be present to both conduct pre-construction surveys for special-status species and to be present during any construction to facilitate safe passage of wildlife species that may inadvertently be in harm’s way from the construction activities.

Any new habitable structures requiring fuel modification should be sited a minimum of 200 feet away from any sensitive biological resources, including coast prickly pear shrubland, island
scrub oak chaparral, lemonade berry scrub, maritime succulent scrub, purple needlegrass
grassland, and toyon chaparral.

Focused surveys for special-status plant and wildlife species should be conducted in the appropriate blooming period for all plant species on the project site prior to any future proposed development.

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-The Blue Caverns on-shore SMCA is a fully protected no-take 3 mile squared zone. The original boundaries of this MPA have been protected since 1989. CA MPAs are managed by the CA Department of Fish and Wildlife and the process will undergo adaptive management in 2022, but there are not any plans to remove this legacy MPA.
-The Dept. of Fish and Wildlife along with local Sheriffs, Harbor Patrol, and staff at the Wrigley Institute patrol and enforce regulations in this MPA.
-Numerous grants have been written by the Catalina MPA Collaborative (Chaired by USC’s WMSC Associate Director of Scientific Operations) to produce education and outreach materials including brochures, posters, speakers training materials etc. and to support MPA Educators Symposiums, lectures for students and the public, enforcement and compliance workshops, training naturalists and docents etc.. Our current grant is 30K from the Ocean Protection Council to support enforcement and compliance projects around Catalina Island including projects (messaging, translated materials, tribal engagement and production of tribal MPA resources, outreach events for the public) which will directly benefit the Blue Caverns SMCA and our MPA programing at WMSC.


Estimated percentage of areas of biodiversity importance that are also protected areas :
100

Website URL where information about the institution’s biodiversity initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.