An Integrated Approach to Understanding and Addressing Threats to Estuarine Habitats:
Ecosystem-based Management at Elkhorn Slough, California
Ecosystem based management (EBM) is described as “an integrated approach to management that considers the entire ecosystem, including humans.”*
The Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Project is supported by multiple grants, however funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Resources Legacy Fund Foundation in January 2006 is targeted at the evaluation of large-scale restoration alternatives using an ecosystem-based management approach. The analysis of options to conserve and restore Elkhorn Slough estuarine habitats will include predictions about changes to estuarine hydrodynamics, morphology, habitats and species, water quality, socioeconomic values, and political constraints. The final outcome of this project will be the selection by Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Project teams of preferred restoration strategies that are science-based, politically and economically feasible, and supported by the community in the long-term. The specific project activities are highlighted below.
Download a presentation about Elkhorn Slough’s ecosystem-based management approach to restoration planning. (pdf 4.1MB)
Project Proposal submitted to the David and Lucile Packard Foundation: An Integrated Approach to Understanding and Addressing Threats to Estuarine Habitats: Ecosystem-Based Management at Elkhorn Slough, California ElkhornEBMproject.doc (908 KB)
Objective 1. Enhance Key Understanding of Different Conservation Strategies
A. Development of Strategies to Predict Tidal Hydrology and Sediment Changes
A consulting team, headed by Philip Williams and Associates, Ltd., will make quantitative predictions about changes to the tidal hydrodynamics, geomorphology, and estuarine habitats for the different restoration alternatives. Preliminary designs and rough estimates of the costs of restoration strategies will also be developed. The major outcomes of this objective are preliminary designs of different restoration options and accurate predictions of changes to tidal hydrology and sediments under these different options.
B. Interactions of Nutrient Dynamics with Hydrology
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) senior scientist Ken Johnson will lead efforts to examine interactions of nitrogen dynamics with changes to tidal hydrology predicted for different restoration scenarios. The major outcome of this work will be a model of nutrient cycling in the Slough that can be used to predict biogeochemical properties, primarily oxygen.
C. Interactions of Wetland Elevation, Hydrology, and Sediment on Marsh Habitats
ESNERR geographical ecologist Eric Van Dyke and consultants will examine marsh sustainability and degradation by studying the role of elevation, tidal hydrology, and sediment. Tide stations and sediment elevation tables will be installed and monitored. On-site measurements of wetland elevations, water level, and sediment distribution will provide the basis for understanding sustaining and degrading marsh health and predicting altered conditions resulting from proposed restoration options.
The data from the 2 NOAA tide stations in Elkhorn Slough (Kirby Park and Yampah) can be found at http://tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov/station_retrieve.shtml?type=Tide+Data. 9413631 Elkhorn Slough At Elkhorn, CA is at Yampah Marsh. 9413651 Kirby Park, Elkhorn Slough, CA is at Kirby Park.
D. Responses of Biological Indicators to Hydrologic Regime
Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR) research coordinator Kerstin Wasson and collaborators will predict the responses of key species to the various restoration alternatives using the predicted changes to estuarine habitats and nutrient conditions. The outcome of this component will be an increased understanding of how ecological assemblages of estuaries respond to different hydrological conditions.
E. Estimates of Economic Values and Analysis of Legal and Political Context
MBARI social scientist Judith Kildow and collaborators will analyze the socioeconomic values of Elkhorn Slough and evaluate how restoration alternatives will affect human uses. Kildow and her team will also conduct an analysis of the political feasibility of selected options based on case studies and the analysis of relevant laws and regulations. The outcomes of this work are to provide estimates of the economic values of consumptive and non-consumptive uses that could result from suggested restoration options and the legal, political and/regulatory requirements for each option.
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Objective 2. Select Preferred Conservation Actions
A. Continuation and Expansion of the Tidal Wetland Planning Process
The Tidal Wetland Project planning process will continue to bring together over a hundred resource managers, community members, and scientific experts to address habitat erosion and marsh loss. It will be expanded to incorporate new findings into its decision-making framework. Tidal Wetland Project staff will also create an organizational structure that sustains a collaborative group to oversee restoration projects and enhance the involvement of key stakeholders.
B. Long-term Support for Implementation Activities
The main outcome of this section will be the creation of a long-term collaborative structure and lead institution to sustain the oversight of restoration and conservation activities in Elkhorn Slough and involvement of the community in this process.
Scientific Consensus Statement on Marine Ecosystem-Based Management. Compass Online, http://compassonline.org/marinescience/solutions_ecosystem.asp, March 21, 2005.