Over the past 150 years, human actions have altered the tidal, freshwater, and sediment processes that are essential to support and sustain Elkhorn Slough (Monterey County). Large areas of tidal marshes were diked and drained in the 20th century. This caused subsidence and when dikes failed, the areas were too low to support healthy marsh. In these previously diked areas the salt marsh habitat is almost entirely gone with just sparse fringing marsh in narrow bands along the shoreline.
In addition to this habitat degradation, modeling suggests most of Elkhorn Slough’s remaining marshes will be lost within 50 years due to sea-level rise. The 122-acre Hester marsh restoration project is the first large scale restoration of its type, in this estuary. Over 400,000 cubic yards of soil brings the marsh up to a sustainable elevation, high in the tidal frame.
The project used cutting edge drone technology to track implementation and incorporated a large ecotone planting experiment. Restoring this degraded habitat took many hands from planning to planting and highlights the importance of a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to restoring sustainable habitat for the future.
Ms. Fountain is Director of the Tidal Wetland Program (TWP) at the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR) ESNERR is a CDFW facility located along the edge of Monterey Bay. TWP embraces a collaborative approach to estuary wide strategic planning that brings science to management using an ecosystem-based management approach, regularly engaging over 100 stakeholders since 2004.
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