The official website of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Elkhorn Slough Restoration: Grassland and Scrub

Coastal prairie and coastal scrub are part of a complex and dynamic mosaic of upland habitats within the Elkhorn Slough watershed. Coastal prairie is a species-rich grassland habitat that occurs along the coast. It hosts not only array of insects, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, but also a number of endangered wildflowers. Coastal prairie often coexists with, and frequently has a successional relationship with, coastal scrub. Coastal scrub is an assemblage of evergreen shrubs, and in the Elkhorn Slough watershed it is dominated by coyote brush. Other scrub plants include California sagebrush, black sage, coffeeberry, bush monkeyflower, California blackberry, yellow bush lupine, and poison-oak. This habitat is important for a variety of small mammals and birds.

Unfortunately, both coastal prairie and coastal scrub face significant threats. Approximately 99% of California native grasslands have been lost over the last 200 years, making them one of the most critically endangered ecosystems in the U.S. Loss of coastal scrub in some parts of California has also been severe. Within the Elkhorn Slough watershed, coastal scrub assemblages often face threats from infestation by tall exotic weeds, such as poison hemlock, fennel, and jubata grass.

For more about Coastal Prairie visit the Coastal Training Program’s habitat reference pages.

Also visit our Slough Life section on Grassland / Scrub to find out more about the species that live there.

Current Stewardship Projects:

  • Reduce abundance of selected non-native species in Reserve coastal prairie and coastal scrub assemblages.
    • Control California Invasive Plant Council’s “high” priority weeds: iceplant, jubata grass, veldt grass, fennel, and French broom.
    • Control outlying patches of harding grass, a Cal-IPC “moderate” priority weed that we have determined to have severe impact on Reserve prairies.
    • Work with school groups and community volunteers to remove non-native poison hemlock and replant with native coastal scrub species in a small-scale restoration project.

  • Implement research that informs regional restoration strategies.
    • Student research done at the Reserve can be viewed online:
      • Angelo, Courtney. 2005. Restoration of Danthonia californica, Elymus glaucus, and Nassella pulchra at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (pdf file, 501KB; click here to download).
      • Orre, K.J., Hufft, R.A., and Parker I.M. 2005. The effects of grazing on native and exotic seed banks at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve. Elkhorn Slough Technical Report Series 2005:2. (pdf file, 420KB; click here to download)


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This site is maintained by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation in partnership with the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve