The official website of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve
Elkhorn Slough Restoration: Coast Live Oak

Oak HabitatCoast live oak woodlands are common in the Elkhorn Slough watershed. At Elkhorn Slough NERR, the overstory is made up exclusively of coast live oak, and common native understory plants include poison oak, sword fern, California blackberry, hedge nettle, snowberry, coffeeberry, beeplant, and miner’s lettuce. The California Wildlife Habitat Relationships System lists over 200 animal species, including mammals and a wide range of birds, that live in or otherwise use coastal oak woodlands in Monterey County. In the Elkhorn Slough watershed these include nesting white tailed kites and golden eagles, and seasonally, Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamanders.

The Elkhorn Slough NERR has been successfully restoring coast live oak trees for over fifteen years. In the 1990s, staff, volunteers, and work crews removed a 13-acre exotic eucalyptus grove on the northern portion of the Reserve and, in its place, planted thousands of coast live oak acorns. Today, an open oak woodland, interspersed with scrub and grassland habitat, is developing in the area. Learn more about this project and future plans.

Before and after much hard work.

Volunteers, school groups, and staff have also successfully planted hundreds of oaks elsewhere on the Reserve, restoring widely scattered oak trees known to have existed historically, but lost during the mid-1900s. More recently, as previously planted oaks have begun to mature, Reserve stewards have focused on oak understory restoration projects. We have successfully removed acres of invasive Cape ivy and English ivy (shown below), and we are currently experimenting with native shrub, forb, and grass plantings.

Before and after invasive ivy has been removed from the Oak understory.

Current Stewardship Projects:

  • Protect the watershed’s coast live oak habitats from biological invaders
  • Control California Invasive Plant Council’s “high” priority invasive weeds in oak woodlands: Cape ivy, English ivy, French broom, and Himalayan blackberry.
  • Control Cal-IPC “moderate” priority species that are currently limited in extent: bull thistle, calla lily, panic veldt grass, and periwinkle.
  • Control exotic eucalyptus trees where they threaten existing coast live oak woodland – with a focus on removing eucalyptus saplings growing on the perimeters of existing eucalyptus groves and near coast live oak woodlands.
  • Prevent the establishment of Sudden Oak Death on Elkhorn Slough NERR.


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