Historical ecology is the recovery and synthesis of diverse, underutilized, and diminishing historical data sources, in order to make sense of past and present ecosystems. It is an emerging field which, in Northern California, has been pioneered by the San Francisco Estuary Institute’s Historical Ecology Program.
Historical ecology can help us understand past and current conditions, including how natural ecological and physical processes have functioned over long periods of time, and how present-day conditions have developed. Furthermore, historical ecology can help guide science-based restoration and management decisions, by helping us understand the restoration potential of various sites, and using history as a restoration reference. Working collaboratively with the research program, the Elkhorn Slough stewardship program researches and acquires copies of original maps, journals, surveys, botanical collections, archaeological data, and geologic cores from a variety of sources, and synthesizes the information in documents and public presentations, in order to reveal the past and help inform the future.
> Check out our page of historical ecology tools you can use at home.
View some historical ecology products from the Reserve’s historical ecology project:
- 2017 presentation at the Elkhorn Slough Symposium: http://library.elkhornslough.
- 2015 presentation at the Elkhorn Slough Water Quality Workshop: http://www.elkhornsloughctp.
org/uploads/files/ 1433534948Woolfolk_Historical_ Wetlands_N_Monterey.pdf
- 2014 presentation to the Central Coast Water Quality Control Board: Historical Ecology of Wetlands in the Vicinity of Elkhorn Slough:http://www.elkhornsloughctp.
org/uploads/files/ 1394746678Historical% 20Ecology%20of%20Wetland%20in% 20the%20Vicinity%20of% 20Elkhorn%20Slough.pdf
- Our 2011 paper in Restoration Ecology, Applications from Paleoecology to Environmental Management at Restoration in a Dynamic Coastal Environment: http://www.elkhornslough.org/
- Elkhorn Slough in the Past: Evidence from sediment cores and historical records (PowerPoint file, 3.9MB).
- Evolution of Elkhorn Slough and Associated Wetlands 20,000 years before present (ybp) to 1880 A.D. 6/12/07 (Word doc, 129KB)
In support of restoration projects, the ESNERR stewardship program manages an on-site native plant greenhouse. In this facility, Reserve staff and volunteers have propagated tens of thousands of native grasses, forbs, shrubs, and trees for use in habitat restoration projects.
Want some tips on growing native species?
Read the Reserve’s Native Species Planting Guide. It outlines seed collection and planting suggestions for over 100 native plants found in the Elkhorn Slough watershed. (pdf, 320KB)
The works cited in the document above can be found in a separate Bibliography (pdf, 28KB)
Other resources, covering a larger range of exotic plants can be found at:
The California Invasive Plant Council’s invasive plants management web page:
The Nature Conservancy’s Global Invasive Species Team
The Wildlands Restoration Team:
Geographic information systems or GIS emerged in the 1970 and 80s. GIS changed forever the way maps were created and analyzed. GIS is a tool that manages, analyzes, and models data from our environment so that we can make decisions based on that information to better study changes over time, conserve and restore important resources, and protect biodiversity into the future.
How maps are used at the slough.