Choose the habitats below to learn about the restoration projects at the Reserve.

In the Elkhorn Slough watershed, freshwater habitats occur as riparian corridors, wet meadows, freshwater marshes, and man-made ponds. Freshwater habitats provide important habitat for diverse communities of plants and animals, including on the Reserve sensitive species such as the Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander, California Red-legged Frog, and the Southern Pacific Pond Turtle. Unfortunately, freshwater habitats have experienced significant losses over the last 150 years.

Freshwater stewardship projects:

  • Work closely with Reserve researchers to design science-based stewardship activities.
  • Manage and enhance freshwater habitats on Reserve
  • Maintain plumbed wildlife watering devices (‘guzzlers’) so they continue to provide habitat for California Red-legged Frogs, breeding tree frogs, birds, reptiles and mammals
  • Maintain infrastructure and seasonal water levels in the Reserve’s man-made ponds in order to promote successful California Red-legged Frog and Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander breeding.
  • Protect Reserve and key neighboring freshwater habitats from harmful non-native species.
  • Detect and control exotic species known to be detrimental to native plants and animals.
The Elkhorn Slough NERR sits on the edge of a large estuary with habitats that include salt marshes, mudflats, and tidal creeks. Dozens of algae and plant species, over 100 fish species, over 135 bird species, and over 550 invertebrate species have been reported from Elkhorn Slough’s estuarine habitats.

Estuarine stewardship projects:

  • Maintain tide gates in order to control water levels and maximize foraging habitat for shorebirds in a 150 acre wetland
  • Participate in the Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Program
    Find out more about the Parsons Slough Restoration Project
  • Provide staff support and research
  • Implement restoration pilot projects
  • As project progresses, restore degraded Reserve salt marshes
  • Collaborate with Reserve researchers on studies of salt marsh dynamics including Ecotone Invasion and Restoration and Marsh Nutrient Dynamics.
Coast live oak woodlands are common in the Elkhorn Slough watershed. At Elkhorn Slough Reserve, 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.

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.


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.
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.

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)