Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 6: Elkhorn Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Phase III

“Our hope is that this project will demonstrate we can undo past damage and that it’s worth it because you cannot have healthy humans without a healthy environment” – Monique Fountain

Today we are visiting Elkhorn Slough. Designated a “Wetland of International Importance” by the Ramsar Convention, the Slough supports a diversity of species, ranging from harbor seals to Dungeness crab. Of course, the Slough is known for the large resident population of southern sea otters that can be seen by the visiting public at close range swimming in the tidal creeks, foraging in the eelgrass meadows, and resting on the salt marsh where they frequently haul out. While these charismatic and fuzzy animals are effective at drawing in the public and fostering stewardship across the broader Monterey Bay community, equally as important are our coastal foundation species (salt marsh, eelgrass, oysters) which are responsible for building the emblematic ecosystems of the California coast. 

This Prop 68 Project will complete the last 30 acres of a 119-acre tidal marsh restoration project and includes the restoration of tidal marsh, eelgrass beds, and Olympia oysters. Reversing the degradation that Elkhorn Slough has experienced over the past 150 years, this project aims to re-build a coastal landscape that is resilient to sea-level rise. The Project Team includes multiple state agencies, academics, and the Amah Mutsun Tribal Band. “This is our chance to bring back some of those wild places in partnership with Native Americans so that these coastal habitats can once again provide the sort of values that they have in the past as a legacy for future generations” notes Dr. Kerstin Wasson, science lead on the project.  … read more

California Biodiversity Day 2021 – Get Involved!

As a state, California boasts both the highest number of species total and the highest number of species that occur nowhere else. Our state’s animal and plant life is so varied that we’ve been named as one of 36 Global Biodiversity Hotspots by Conservation International. For California Biodiversity Day on Tuesday, Sept. 7, we’re turning our attention to what climate change means for ocean wildlife – and what we’re doing to protect the habitat those creatures rely on. (See the full line-up of California Biodiversity Day events here.)

Plenty of iconic ocean creatures can be seen from California’s shores including harbor seals, sea otters, elephant seals, sea lions, dolphins, porpoises, sea turtles and whales. Our tide pools feature anemones, urchins, nudibranchs, limpets, mussels, crabs and many more animals uniquely suited to living in these constantly changing homes. Cormorants, osprey, sandpipers, godwits and pelicans are only some of the hundreds of species of coastal birds diving, soaring and nesting along our beaches. Dozens of types of flowers and other plants dot long stretches of undeveloped coastline. This all combines to create a fascinating and beautiful 1,100 miles along the Pacific Ocean. … read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 5: Heron’s Head Shoreline Resilience Project

(Intro to the series here)

“We spend a lot of our lives hearing about how humans are negatively affecting the environment…and we don’t always hear about the exciting good things we do for the environment–and this project is one of those” – Erica Petersen

Today we are at Heron’s Head Park in San Francisco to meet with members of the team leading a large project that will use nature to engineer resilience to erosion and sea level rise. This project seeks to protect this highly accessible and valuable wetland habitat for future generations.

“With this project we get to demonstrate these natural infrastructure techniques for shoreline protection. These dynamic solutions to climate change and sea level rise are going to be so important over the coming decades, it’s great to start to install them now and learn from them and build the knowledge and scientific basis for applying these [nature-based solutions] throughout the state,” comments Eddie Divita, lead ESA designer on the project.

The shoreline at Heron’s Head Park has been eroding for the past 20 years and so to prevent further erosion this project will construct a coarse material beach and an adjacent offshore oyster reef to dampen the wave action that is currently pounding the shore. “Every year that we don’t control shoreline erosion, we’re losing marsh,” notes Carol Bach, Lead Project Manager. 

Photo courtesy Literacy for Environmental Justice

This Prop 68 project also includes the restoration of endangered tidal marsh plant, Suaeda californica, or the California sea-blite; this plant grows tall and climbs, providing ideal high tide refuge for bird and mammal species seeking cover to avoid predators while also staying dry. Over time, the team expects the coarse material beach to develop a wave-built berm. To stabilize the berm and provide high-tide refuge for marsh animals, Dr. Katharyn Boyer and her team of San Francisco State University undergraduate and graduate students in partnership with the community-based non profit education organization, Literacy for Environmental Justice (LEJ), will plant S. californica using plants raised by LEJ Eco-Apprentices.

Boyer has used this “arboring” technique at other sites throughout San Francisco Bay and is optimistic that the S. californica restoration at Heron’s Head will provide critical habitat for species such as the federally-endangered Ridgway’s Rail and salt marsh harvest mouse. “We can use a federally endangered plant to support some federally endangered animal species,” adds Boyer.  

Photo courtesy Bionic Landscape Architects

San Francisco Bay is an ideal location for this type of project: “the Bay is directly connected to the outer coast of California, it drains 40 percent of the state’s watershed, and supports many endangered and endemic species,” says Marilyn Latta, Project Manager for the State Coastal Conservancy. “This project is part of an overall regional blueprint for the Bay to bring back not only tidal wetlands, with a goal to restore 100,000 acres of tidal wetlands within the Bay, but also to restore the subtidal habitats that we so rarely see…seagrasses, oyster reefs, sandy bottom, mudflats,” adds Latta. … read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 4: Bolinas Lagoon Wye Wetlands Resiliency Project

(Intro to the series here)

“Part of this is just the regular stewardship practice of taking care of the land together” – Max Korten

Today we are in the beautiful Bolinas Lagoon of Marin County, this tidal embayment is a Ramsar Site, recognized internationally for its ecological importance. Bolinas Lagoon supports many listed and endangered species including the California black rail, red-legged frog, steelhead trout, and coho salmon. This Prop 68 Project is to finalize the designs for the Bolinas Lagoon Wye Wetlands Resiliency Project. 

The primary goal of this project is to restore natural processes, reversing past land-uses (ranching, logging, mining) that left the wetlands vulnerable to sea level rise, by fragmenting and developing the area immediately surrounding the lagoon. The design includes removing a part of a road that currently separates the uplands and brackish marshes of the lagoon from neighboring freshwater wetlands and building a bridge to restore tidal flow to the area and removing a barrier to eventual marsh migration. The team has also incorporated plans to reroute a creek that is currently behind a water control structure, to its historical path allowing it to flow directly into the lagoon. They plan to allow the creek to self-form and evolve over time with minimal intervention beyond the initial channelization.

“For the community, their main connection to the rest of the world is this road, which already gets flooded during high tides and storms, one of the ancillary benefits of this project is that they have a more consistently safe and accessible access into and out of their community,” says Max Korten.

“This is a stepping stone, it’s the first step that we need to take to accommodate sea level rise and allow for wetlands to be able to migrate towards our uplands”, notes Veronica Pearson, the Lead Project Manager for this effort. Max Korten, Director of Marin County Parks is hopeful that this Prop 68 Project can help inform future adaptation efforts across the California coast, noting that sea level rise will present some difficult decisions for regions of the state that are heavily developed. “Bolinas Lagoon can serve as a model for the more challenging places in the state where there are harder trade-offs,” adds Korten.  … read more

Prop 68 Climate Resilience Miniseries Episode 3: Eelgrass Habitat Suitability Model Update for Targeted, Climate-Smart Eelgrass Restoration in San Francisco Bay

(Intro to the series here)

Today we are talking about a Prop 68 Project to develop an Eelgrass Habitat Suitability Model for San Francisco Bay–where many of California’s eelgrass enhancement and mitigation projects have been conducted. In order to successfully restore eelgrass, we need to first find the best locations to restore, which is not as easy as it may sound. 

The goal of this project is to update an Eelgrass Habitat Suitability Model (HSM) that was first developed by Merkel & Associates more than 10 years ago. Not only do we have much better data today than was available 10 years ago, we also know much more about the conditions that eelgrass needs to successfully establish and expand, post-restoration. This project takes advantage of the wealth of data now available and applies lessons learned from previous restoration projects and our improved understanding of how eelgrass may respond to climate impacts to develop an adaptive, climate-smart HSM. “We have learned a lot through our restoration efforts about what works and what doesn’t, but site selection remains a tricky problem, especially as we think about the future of eelgrass habitats as conditions shift with climate change”, states Dr. Katharyn Boyer, the lead academic on the project.  … read more

Global Climate Change Report Affirms California’s Leadership

On August 9, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth report on global climate change. The report, which was written by 234 scientists from around the world, provides a sobering outlook for the planet as global temperatures continue to increase and signals an urgency for action now. Many changes observed are unprecedented, with some impacts – such as global temperature and sea-level rise – increasing at a pace not previously predicted by scientists. 

The IPCC report asserts that even if the world’s population completely ceased greenhouse gas emissions immediately, what’s already been emitted will continue to affect the atmosphere for decades to come:  … read more

Advancing 30×30: Conservation of Coastal Waters Report Released

a breaking wave at Montara State Beach
Montara State Beach

The Conservation of Coastal Waters Advisory Panel has released its summary document: Advancing 30×30: Conservation of Coastal Waters. The report can be found here.

The Conservation of Coastal Waters Advisory Panel collaborated to explore strategies that California could pursue to conserve 30% of California’s coastal waters by 2030 (30×30) in a way that is meaningful, equitable, and measurable.

The Advisory Panel includes specialists from a Tribal Government, a federal agency, academic and research institutions, and non-profit organizations representing a broad range of conservation expertise in coastal habitats and communities. Panelist bios can be found here, along with the questions that the panelists were asked to address — click on the Conservation of Coastal Waters Topical Workshop header to see both. The public is also being asked to consider how they would address these questions.

A topical workshop, Advancing 30×30 and Conservation of Coastal Waters, will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 17 from 3 to 6 p.m. that will feature a presentation from the Advisory Panel, as well as an opportunity to provide input on how California Natural Resources Agency and its partners can deliver on the State’s 30×30 goal. Register for the workshop here.

Public participation is key to these workshops, and participants will have an opportunity to share their perspectives on the topic. Key takeaways related to each topic will inform the State’s Pathways to 30×30 document and CA Nature GIS.

All meetings are open to the public and will be accessible by Zoom, a phone dial-in option, and YouTube livestream. Advance registration is required and participants who wish to make a 90-second public comment will need to register to provide verbal input during the public comment session.

Visit CaliforniaNature.ca.gov for additional information about the virtual workshop and other ways to provide comments