Elkhorn Slough is an estuary located on Monterey Bay in Central California. Part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, it supports high estuarine biodiversity and harbors a dozen rare, threatened or endangered species. The estuarine habitats of Elkhorn Slough are undergoing rapid change, with 90 percent of the historic salt marsh predicted to disappear by 2050 if no action is taken.

Initiative Background

In response to the threat of this extensive habitat loss, the Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Project was initiated in 2004. This collaborative and multidisciplinary effort involves over 100 coastal resource managers, scientific experts, key local government representatives, conservation organization leaders, and community members. The effort is lead by the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve, which is owned and managed by the California Department of Fish and Game and operated in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The non-profit Elkhorn Slough Foundation is also a key partner. 


EBM Approach

A strategic planning process led to identification of key stressors, conceptual models and management actions. The group strives to understand the ecosystem and pursue management actions that restore these processes that sustain the ecosystem, while minimizing risks to existing high quality habitats. Based on the strategic plan, the project is pursuing several lines of investigation to evaluate scenarios that would restore historical tidal hydrology to recover at-risk habitats. The success of this project is evidenced by the mobilization of the strategic planning and science panel teams, which are now guiding science-based consideration of management scenarios.

location Elkhorn Slough, California

Website  www.elkhornslough.org

Project lead  Bryan Largay

Email  bryan@elkhornslough.org

Photo courtesy of Elkhorn Slough Foundation


Photo courtesy of Elkhorn Slough Foundation

Photo courtesy of Elkhorn Slough Foundation

Formed: 2004

Geographic Focus: Elkhorn Slough (estuary on Monterey Bay, CA)

Project Office: Watsonville, CA (27mi north of Monterey, CA)


  1. -Strategic Planning Team

  2. -Science Panel

  3. -EBM Working Groups


  1. -Elkhorn Slough Tidal Wetland Strategic Plan

  2. -Investigations into large-scale management options:

  3. Modeled predictions  of tidal hydrology and geomorphology

  4. High frequency monitoring of nutrient dynamics to understand interactions with hydrology and primary productivity

  5. Interactions between wetland elevations, sedimentation, tidal hydrology, and the viability of salt marsh vegetation

  6. Estimates of economic value associated with recreational use of the slough

  7. Analysis of the legal and political context for implementing large-scale management projects

  8. -Progress towards a consensus recommendation of a large-scale management action

Project Details