Information about salt marsh restoration in Elkhorn Slough. Click the tabs below to help you find the most important and most current information about this project.
One hundred years ago, extensive tidal marsh occurred on the shores of Elkhorn Slough. By the 1930s and 40s much of the salt marsh on the southern and eastern shores had been diked and drained. Decades later, these dikes began to fail, reintroducing tidal waters to the reclaimed lands. However, while the wetlands were drained, the soils consolidated and decomposed and the land subsided. The land surface dropped by up to several feet. This made the soil too low and wet to support salt marsh when the tides returned. This extra room (accommodation space) also contributes to a shortage of sediment in the slough that affects the viability of tidal marsh elsewhere.
The Elkhorn Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Project will add sediment to these former marshes, returning the land to the elevation necessary for marsh plants to thrive. If fully successful, the healthy plants will create and capture sediment in the future, jumpstarting the process that sustains healthy tidal marsh habitats as sea level rises.
The sediment addition will also reduce Elkhorn Slough’s tidal prism, the volume of water that flows in and out of the slough each tidal cycle. The tidal prism today is larger than it was historically, and the additional flowing water has eroded banks and soft mud habitats.
The goals of the project are to:
Goal 1: Increase the extent of tidal marsh in Elkhorn Slough.
Goal 2: Reduce tidal scour in Elkhorn Slough.
Goal 3: Protect and improve surface water quality in Elkhorn Slough.
Goal 4: Provide resilience to climate change to Estuarine ecosystems in Elkhorn Slough
Goal 5: Increase understanding of how best to create salt marsh
These reports are data rich and because of that they are also very large.
Choose the one that interests you the most, or read them all!
Project overview and frequently asked questions:
Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Project Strategic Plan: http://www.elkhornslough.org/tidalwetland/strategic_plan.htm
Parsons Slough Wetland Restoration Plan:
http://www.elkhornslough.org/tidalwetland/parsons.htm A Wetland Restoration Plan for Parsons Slough was completed in 2010. That plan focused on the large scale addition of sediment to restore tidal marsh to the area. It includes a Draft Initial Study for a 2-million cubic yard sediment addition project.
Parsons Slough Sill Final Initial Study/ Mitigated Negative Declaration:
About Tidal Marshes
Elkhorn Slough's salt marshes are vegetated wetlands that are subjected to tidal action. They are dominated by pickleweed, and in many parts of the Slough the marshes are thousands of years old. California's salt marshes have become a rare habitat in recent history and the various laws in place protecting them are evidence of their value.
Elkhorn Slough's salt marshes are home to to dozens of native plant species, and are used by invertebrates, fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, including sea otters (see videos below) and for resting, feeding, breeding and refuge. Tidal salt marshes undergo the processes of subsidence and sediment accretion, which often allow them to maintain a stable elevation in pace with the natural rate of sea level rise. The process of accretion both traps and creates sediment, and this helps slow water velocity to control erosion, reduce tidal channel widening, maintain important subtidal habitats, and provide shoreline protection. Marshes have also been shown to improve nutrient filtration, which provides a health benefit to the estuary's aquatic life forms and to humans by reducing eutrophication and the transmittal of pathogens. Furthermore, the unique sediment conditions of salt marshes allow them to store disproportionate quantities of soil carbon and help them to remove nitrogen from the hydrosphere.
Learn more about the value of local salt marshes, download this technical report: Woolfolk, A. and Labadie, Q. 2012. The significance of pickleweed-dominated tidal salt marsh in Elkhorn Slough, California. Elkhorn Slough Technical Report Series 2012:4
Fifty percent of the tidal salt marsh in Elkhorn Slough has been lost in the past 70 years. This habitat loss is a result of past diking and draining, and increased tidal flooding, which "drowns" the vegetation. The Elkhorn Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Project is designed to plan for the restoration of up to 100 acres of lost marsh. We plan to add sediment to some of these former marshes, returning the land to the elevation necessary for marsh plants to thrive. If fully successful, the healthy plants will create and capture sediment in the future, jumpstarting the process that sustains healthy tidal marsh habitats as sea level rises.
For more information on Elkhorn Slough's salt marshes please view Elkhorn Slough Salt Marshes: Past, Present and Future.
Otters using the salt marsh in Elkhorn Slough