Some of you, especially those who commute between Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties, may have noticed murky, red tinted ocean water along the coast. This abnormal looking sea water is due to a natural event called a “red tide.” The event has been ongoing in the waters off Ventura County for several weeks, with a shorter but still significant and noticeable event more recent off Santa Barbara County.
What are red tides? Why do they happen? And how do they impact our environment?
Today, Carrie Culver, our Ventura and Santa Barbara County UCCE Sea Grant Marine Advisor shares some of her knowledge with us.
Red tides are made up of microscopic, single cell plants known as phytoplankton. These tiny plants are the basis of the bottom of the ocean food web. Phytoplankton have pigments that capture sunlight used for growth and reproduction. Red tides occur when these plants reproduce extremely rapidly resulting in a large ‘blooms’ of phytoplankton.
Because phytoplankton blooms can reach concentrations of millions of cells per gallon of water, the water itself can change color. The color of the water varies depending on the types of phytoplankton species present. The blooms can produce hues of bright red, brown, burgundy, yellow and anything in-between. Some blooms produce no visible changes.
Blooms can last from a few days to several months. The length of time depends on a variety of variables including: available nutrients, sunlight, water temperature, changes in wind or surf conditions, competition with other species, and grazing by zooplankton and small fish.
Depending on the type of phytoplankton, the blooms may or may not be toxic. Luckily our current red tide is not toxic. It consists of three organisms; mainly Lingulodinium polyedrum in combination with species of Prorocentrum and Ceratium. While these organisms do not produce toxins, they still can impact people and marine life due to the changes in the chemical composition of the water. People swimming through a non-toxic bloom have reported irritation of the eyes, mouth, and throat, as well as cold and flu-like symptoms. The water can also become depleted of oxygen leading to fish kills and deaths of other marine life.
How do you know whether a red tide is toxic or not? You can’t tell just by looking at the water. You need to refer to the experts, including the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). This agency works with dedicated volunteers from other agencies, universities and public and private groups to routinely monitor our coast and shellfish for the presence of these blooms. You can obtain the collected data from CDPH’s toll-free Biotoxin Information Line at 1-800-553-4133. That line can also be used to request a copy of the monthly monitoring newsletter or to get further information on phytoplankton blooms.
The University of California’s Early Detection Monitoring Manual for Quagga and Zebra Mussels publication defines aquatic invasive species (AIS) as ”non-native aquatic organisms that have caused, or likely will cause economic or ecological harm or impacts to human health (pg 1).”
Written by Ventura County UCCE’s Carolynn Culver and Monique Myers and Los Angeles County UCCE’s Sabrina Drill and Valerie Borel, this publication gives great background information while providing clear guidelines and instructions for monitoring small lakes, reservoirs and streams in California and is designed especially for citizen volunteer and monitoring groups. We hope that early detection of these species in California’s waterways will reduce their negative impacts. From the manual:
The sooner a population is detected, the more time there will be to take action and the higher the likelihood of successful eradication. Responding to an infestation at an early stage is also referred to as rapid response. Rapid response plans for AIS in general, and quagga/zebra mussels in particular, are being developed and updated in California (pg 1).”
For more information about these invasive species, check out the California Department of Fish and Game website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/invasives/quaggamussel/. Anyone interested in monitoring a water body is encouraged to contact your local Fish and Game authorities to coordinate efforts.
The Early Detection Monitoring Manual for Quagga and Zebra Mussels is available for viewing in the Ventura UCCE office (please call first to make sure) and for purchase online at http://anrcatalog.ucdavis.edu/. Use promo code PRVEN56 at checkout to receive a 10% discount. For orders of five or more, please contact our office for bulk discount rates.
Did you know that the Ventura County UCCE office has an advisor that works with local commercial fishermen? Her name is Carrie Culver, and she would like you to know our area is one of the top producing regions on the west coast!
The Santa Barbara Channel includes three ports in Ventura County and one in Santa Barbara County. The region is defined here as the ocean waters south of Point Conception to just south of Point Mugu, as well as the waters surrounding the four northern Channel Islands. This region is a unique place for California fisheries because it is the transition zone where both southern and northern species occur and there are natural conditions that typically provide an abundance of food for the fish.
So what are the top species caught by our local commercial fishermen? Halibut, rockfish, tuna, white seabass, squid, lobster, crab, sea urchin, and shrimp top the list. In addition abalone, oysters and mussels are locally farmed or cultured.
Research shows that including seafood in our diet is good for our health. If you enjoy eating seafood, please do what you can to support local fishermen by visiting fishermen’s market, or ask for it at stores and restaurants.
Great recipes, storage and handling information and much more can be found at these sites.
Additional information about local fisheries, including availability, can be found in our Fish on Your Dish publication. Written by kids and for kids, there is much inside for all of us to learn.
Below you will find a summary of what we did last month. By no means does this summary capture all that we accomplished or began, but it gives a nice glimpse of what we do.
1. Research Activities
This is a sampling of the research activity conducted in June.
- Established an experiment testing an herbicide for management of yellow nutsedge, a major weed in production agriculture costing Ventura County growers thousands of dollars annually to control. For more information on nutsedge and its impact, please read previous blog posts.
- Established an experiment testing an organic method of soil disinfestations by creating anaerobic conditions in strawberry beds and monitoring effects on plant pathogen Verticillium dahliae. This research makes direct contributions by addressing the issue of seeking alternatives to fumigants such as methyl bromide.
- Finished four field trials that evaluate management options for four pests detrimental to the strawberry industry. Management strategies included physical, thermal and chemical control measures.
- Initiated a project with CA Dept. of Food and Agriculture and local strawberry growers to introduce a biocontrol agent for Lygus bug, the #1 insect pest for strawberries and significant for other row crops.
- We are continuing research on minimizing irrigation needs for strawberries, which addresses both economic and environmental issues.
2. Educational Activities
This is a sampling of the educational activities conducted in June.
A. Grower/Clientele Education
- Jim Downer presented sessions at a regional meeting on nutrition of palms and diseases of shade trees. 100 in attendance.
- Ben Faber participated in a program at UC Riverside on Asian Citrus Psyllid (ACP), which poses a significant threat to the citrus industry. It was clear that fruit from affected areas coming into Ventura County packing houses could be a host for the psyllid. Ben spoke to Henry Gonzales about this and as a result the import of lemons from Imperial County (quarantine area) to Ventura for repacking has been restricted to reduce the likelihood of introducing the pest here. Both Faber and Rose Hayden-Smith participated in a meeting that brought packers together with the Ag Commissioner, where they hammered out a solution/agreement.
- Ben Faber delivered two grower workshops, one on avocado irrigation and the other on techniques to reduce surface water contamination.
- Rose Hayden-Smith presented her research on gardening and community development at a City of Minneapolis/IATP event attended by more than 100 people. She also presented a two-hour workshop on Victory Gardens, past and present, to a sold-out audience in Minneapolis. She offered a talk on gardening trends and public policy in Oxnard to an audience of 75. Earlier in the month, she facilitated an Urban Agriculture Symposium for 175 people in Chicago, which generated public policy recommendations for the USDA.
- Monique Myers presented the Ventura County RESTOR Project at the National Marine Educators conference in Monterey.
- Monique Myers organized a focus group for Ventura City/County Planners and city storm water experts addressing low impact development and emergency safety issues.
- 4-H staff trained staff at Pt. Mugu and Port Hueneme Naval Bases in the basics of 4-H program management. Also trained new 4-H club leaders.
B. Youth Education
- Monique Myers directed/facilitated the last of 8 RESTOR teacher/student field trips to Ormond Beach (~70 students per trip). RESTOR is a grant-funded wetlands/ecological restoration program linking teachers and youth with science education and community service opportunities.
- Monique Myers led a RESTOR Project field trip with 28 student essay contest winners and their teachers on the NOAA research vessel Shearwater.
- 4-H held a Science, Engineering and Technology Day at the military base.
- 4-H held events at both military bases kicking off the new 4-H programs there.
- UCCE staff. Launched a UCCE/Farm Advisor blog http://ucanr.org/blogs/venturacountyucce/
- UCCE staff. Produced a new UCCE/Farm Advisor educational brochure.
- Daugovish, Oleg and Maren Mochizuki submitted a paper to HortTechnology detailing the potential for carbon dioxide to be taken up by raspberry plants to boost productivity instead of being released to the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas. We hope this method will gain attention as one of the ways to tackle a global issue on a local scale.
- Downer, James and Maren Mochizuki.
- Two manuscripts accepted to HortTechnology.
- Pruning landscape palms
- Diseases of palms.
- Two manuscripts accepted to HortTechnology.
- Downer, James. Landscape Notes – Landscaping Trees. Available at http://ceventura.ucdavis.edu/newsletterfiles/Landscape_Notes17660.pdf
- Downer, James: Article on mulches in Western Arborist Magazine.
- Downer, James, Article on a new pest, the Date Bug, in Southwest Trees and Turf Magazine.
- Faber, Ben and Newman, Julie, et al. 2009. Re-evaluation of the roles of honeybees and wind on pollination in avocado. J. of Hort Science and Biotech (84)3:255-260.
- Faber, Ben and Newman, Julie, et al. 2009. Farm Water Quality Planning Project – From Education to Implementation. Statewide Conf., Sacramento April 27-30.
- Faber, Ben. 2009. Cherry Vinegar Fly in Ventura County. VC Farm Bureau Newsletter 41(7): 2-3.
- Hayden-Smith, Rose, et al. Proceedings of the Chicago Urban Agriculture Symposium. Includes policy recommendations for the USDA and other cities relating to urban agriculture. http://www.chicagobotanic.org/wed/index.php
- Myers, Monique, et al. Differences in benthic cover inside and outside marine protected areas on the Great Barrier Reef: influence of protection or disturbance history? was published on-line (in advance of printing) this week in Aquatic Conservation. (http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/84503925/issue)
- Newman, Julie. Wrote an article for Greenhouse Management & Production, a national grower magazine
- Monique Myers and Sabrina Drill won an Award of Merit from the 2009 Ecology Awards for their Quagga Mussel manual.