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California State Waters Map Series — Offshore of San Gregorio, California

September 4, 2014

In 2007, the California Ocean Protection Council initiated the California Seafloor Mapping Program (CSMP), designed to create a comprehensive seafloor map of high-resolution bathymetry, marine benthic habitats, and geology within the 3-nautical-mile limit of California's State Waters. The CSMP approach is to create highly detailed seafloor maps through collection, integration, interpretation, and visualization of swath sonar data, acoustic backscatter, seafloor video, seafloor photography, high-resolution seismic-reflection profiles, and bottom-sediment sampling data. The map products display seafloor morphology and character, identify potential marine benthic habitats, and illustrate both the surficial seafloor geology and shallow (to about 100 m) subsurface geology.

The Offshore of San Gregorio map area is located in northern California, on the Pacific coast of the San Francisco Peninsula about 50 kilometers south of the Golden Gate. The map area lies offshore of the Santa Cruz Mountains, part of the northwest-trending Coast Ranges that run roughly parallel to the San Andreas Fault Zone. The Santa Cruz Mountains lie between the San Andreas Fault Zone and the San Gregorio Fault system.

The nearest significant onshore cultural centers in the map area are San Gregorio and Pescadero, both unincorporated communities with populations well under 1,000. Both communities are situated inland of state beaches that share their names. No harbor facilities are within the Offshore of San Gregorio map area. The hilly coastal area is virtually undeveloped grazing land for sheep and cattle.

The coastal geomorphology is controlled by late Pleistocene and Holocene slip in the San Gregorio Fault system. A westward bend in the San Andreas Fault Zone, southeast of the map area, coupled with right-lateral movement along the San Gregorio Fault system have caused regional folding and uplift. The coastal area consists of high coastal bluffs and vertical sea cliffs. Coastal promontories in the northern and southern parts of the map area are the result of right-lateral motion on strands of the San Gregorio Fault system. In the south, headlands near Pescadero Point have been uplifted by motion along the west strand of the San Gregorio Fault (also called the Frijoles Fault), which separates rocks of the Pigeon Point Formation south of the fault from rocks of the Purisima Formation north of the fault. The regional uplift in this map area has caused relatively shallow water depths within California's State Waters and, thus, little accommodation space for sediment accumulation. Sediment is observed offshore in the central part of the map area, in the shelter of the headlands north of the east strand of the San Gregorio Fault (also called the Coastways Fault) around Miramontes Point (about 5 km north of the map area) and also on the outer half of the California's State Waters shelf in the south where depths exceed 40 m. Sediment in the outer shelf of California's State Waters is rippled, indicating some mobility.

The Offshore of San Gregorio map area lies within the cold-temperate biogeographic zone that is called either the "Oregonian province" or the "northern California ecoregion." This biogeographic province is maintained by the long-term stability of the southward-flowing California Current, an eastern limb of the North Pacific subtropical gyre that flows from Oregon to Baja California. At its midpoint off central California, the California Current transports subarctic surface (0–500 m deep) waters southward, about 150 to 1,300 km from shore. Seasonal northwesterly winds that are, in part, responsible for the California Current, generate coastal upwelling. The south end of the Oregonian province is at Point Conception (about 350 km south of the map area), although its associated phylogeographic group of marine fauna may extend beyond to the area offshore of Los Angeles in southern California. The ocean off of central California has experienced a warming over the last 50 years that is driving an ecosystem shift away from the productive subarctic regime towards a depopulated subtropical environment.

Seafloor habitats in the Offshore of San Gregorio map area, which lies within the Shelf (continental shelf) megahabitat, range from significant rocky outcrops that support kelp-forest communities nearshore to rocky-reef communities in deep water. Biological productivity resulting from coastal upwelling supports diverse populations of sea birds such as Sooty Shearwater, Western Gull, Common Murre, Cassin's Auklet, and many other less populous bird species. In addition, an observable recovery of Humpback and Blue Whales has occurred in the area; both species are dependent on coastal upwelling to provide nutrients. The large extent of exposed inner shelf bedrock supports large forests of "bull kelp," which is well adapted for high wave-energy environments. Common fish species found in the kelp beds and rocky reefs include lingcod and various species of rockfish and greenling.

Publication Year 2014
Title California State Waters Map Series — Offshore of San Gregorio, California
DOI 10.3133/sim3306
Authors Guy R. Cochrane, Peter Dartnell, H. Gary Greene, Janet Watt, Nadine E. Golden, Charles A. Endris, Eleyne L. Phillips, Stephen R. Hartwell, Samuel Y. Johnson, Rikk G. Kvitek, Mercedes D. Erdey, Carrie K. Bretz, Michael W. Manson, Ray W. Sliter, Stephanie L. Ross, Bryan E. Dieter, John L. Chin, Susan A. Cochran
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Map
Series Number 3306
Index ID sim3306
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center