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In Partnership with National Estuary Program noaa community-Based Restoration Partnership


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1The Bay Institute

Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW) Project:

Sonoma Baylands Restoration Project

In Partnership with National Estuary Program - NOAA Community-Based Restoration Partnership


I. Applicant Information

1. Organization: The Bay Institute

2. Address of Organization: 695 De Long Avenue, Suite 100, Novato, CA 94945,

(415) 878-2929

3. Organization Web Page Address: www.bay.org

II. Project Contact


1. Project Manager and Title: Sheryl Barbic, Institutional Advancement Manager

2. Address of Contact: Same as above

3. Phone number: (415) 878-2929 x35

4. Fax number: (415) 878-2930

5. Email address: barbic@bay.org

6. Contact web page address: www.bay.org

7. Congressional District: California 6th District

III. Project Information


1. Project name: Sonoma Baylands Restoration Project

2. Project start date: 2/1/2010

3. Project end date: 1/31/2011

4. Project location (City, County, State): Petaluma, Sonoma County, California

5. Land Ownership (public/private): Public, California State Coastal Conservancy

6. Type(s) of habitat: Marsh-upland transition zone

7. NOAA Trust Resource(s) to benefit from restoration: steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), and green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris).

8. Partners involved: San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge/US Fish & Wildlife Service (Refuge), Sonoma Land Trust, California Department of Fish and Game, and PRBO Conservation Science (PRBO)



9. Federal, state or local permits required: Permits are not required for revegetation.

IV. Project Description


1. Executive Summary: The Bay Institute’s (TBI’s) Students and Teachers Restoring a Watershed (STRAW) Project requests $30,000 for native plant restoration in the marsh-upland transition zone at the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge). The goal is to revegetate two acres of marsh-upland transition zone with native plants following the control of invasive Lepidium latifolium (pepperweed) in 1,500 acres of tidal marsh. The Refuge will assess pepperweed coverage, and undertake control and monitoring activities. STRAW will propagate native plants at the Refuge Native Plant Nursery, conduct revegetation and educational activities with Kindergarten – 12th grade (K-12) students and their teachers at Sonoma Baylands. Project partners include: San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge/US Fish & Wildlife Service, Sonoma Land Trust, California Department of Fish and Game, and PRBO Conservation Science.

a. Objectives of Project: The project will restore 2 acres of marsh upland transition zone by revegetating the area with native plants and enhance 1,500 acres of tidal marsh on the Refuge following control of invasive pepperweed using the chemical imazapyr (trade name Habitat). Control activities will be conducted outside of the scope of this project. Objectives include:

  • Improve habitat and nursery grounds for NOAA trust resources and other marine species.

  • Improve habitat for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl including enhanced nesting, foraging and breeding grounds.

  • Engage students in restoration and educate students on topics including tidal marsh ecology and restoration science.

  • Ensure durable project benefits through project monitoring and maintenance.

b. Project Summary: STRAW is engaged in a tidal marsh restoration project with the Refuge and adjacent Sonoma Land Trust and California Department of Fish and Game properties to benefit the protection and recovery of NOAA Trust Resources including steelhead, Chinook salmon, and green sturgeon. The project will restore 2 acres of marsh-upland ecotone within a 1,500 acre tidal marsh. The Refuge will control pepperweed at the site with other funds. STRAW will revegetate the area with native plants to be grown on site from seeds collected on the Refuge. Several native fish species use the estuarine waters in the project area, including several species of special concern such as green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris), longfin smelt (Spirinchus thaleichthys), and the Sacramento splittail (Pogonichthys macrolepidotus) (Jones & Stokes 2004, Takekawa et al. 2002). The ecological benefits that vegetated tidal marsh offers to assemblages of fish species have been well documented (Kneib 1997), and include food resources, cover from predation, and spawning grounds. Marsh channels provide access to these resources and serve as movement corridors for anadromous fishes such as steelhead and Chinook salmon. Marsh channels also provide important rearing habitat for juvenile Chinook salmon and steelhead. Habitat is an important determinant for prey resources such as amphipods, shrimp, and crabs (Takekawa et al. 2002). Active restoration is required in the marsh-upland transition zone. Passive native plant restoration in treated areas is expected to occur in marsh plain and lower tidal elevations.

c. Expected Results of Project: Restoration will benefit the recovery of NOAA Trust Resources as well as the Refuge’s many threatened and endangered species through enhancement of tidal marsh and restoration of the marsh-upland transition zone. The marsh transition zone plays a role in sustaining populations of estuarine-dependent species. Protection and restoration of upland transition zone habitat at Sonoma Baylands will promote the spread of plants native to the marsh-upland transition zone and prevent reinvasion by invasive pepperweed. Improved vegetation conditions within the tidal marsh will expand habitat for steelhead, Chinook salmon, and green sturgeon) as well as endangered estuarine marsh species such as the California clapper rail (Rallus longirostris obsoletus), and the salt marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris). Other sensitive species to benefit from these actions include the California black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis), San Pablo Bay song sparrow (Melospiza melodia samuelis) and the Saltmarsh common yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas sinuosa) that depend on the marsh and upland transition zone. Restoration of San Pablo Bay wetlands will positively affect the overall health of the Bay-Delta Estuary in terms of increased habitat for sensitive species, improved habitat quality, and improved water quality. Expected results for the project include include:

  • Protect and improve aquatic habitat for NOAA Trust Resources including steelhead, Chinook salmon, and green sturgeon.

  • Restore 2 acres of marsh upland transition zone and enhance 1,500 acres of tidal marsh on the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

  • Improve habitat conditions for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl including enhanced nesting, foraging, and breeding grounds.

  • Engage school-aged children in the restoration process and educate on topics including tidal marsh ecology, restoration science, and mapping technologies.

2. Project Description

a. Describe the Need for the Project: Historically large expanses of tidal marsh occurred through the lower elevations of the Sonoma Baylands. Like much of San Francisco Bay—which has lost over 85% of its original wetlands to salt production, urbanization and private use—much of the historic tidal marshland of the Sonoma Baylands has been lost, mostly through diking and conversion to hay fields or other agricultural uses (Habitat Goals Report 1999). The tidal marsh that fringes San Pablo Bay accounts for much of the area’s remaining tidal marsh habitat. Only these vestiges of past tidal marsh expanse continue to support the unique floral and faunal tide marsh ecological communities, including threatened and rare species. Remaining tidal marsh has been impacted by contaminants, fragmentation, altered hydrology, and invasive non-native species. These impacts result in population declines of many estuarine-dependent species. Many efforts are underway throughout the Estuary to restore historic tidal marsh. Improving the health of existing tidal wetlands is critical as weather-related climate changes begin to add further stressors to estuarine environments and their sensitive species. Improving the health of existing tidal wetlands of San Pablo Bay must include control or eradication of plant species invasive to tidal marsh and restoration of the marsh-upland transition zone.

b. Describe the specific on-the-ground activities to be undertaken to achieve the project objectives: The STRAW Project will restore tidal marsh ecotone through revegetation with native plants. On-the-ground activities for the project include:

Lepidium Mapping. Mapping will take place within the 1,500 acre project area and will include 90 acres of previously discovered pepperweed. Mapping is conducted using both field GPS and the Refuge Lands Geographic Information System (RLGIS) and remote methods (aerial photo analysis).

Lepidium Control. The Refuge invasive removal effort encompasses over 90 acres within 1,500 acres of tidal wetlands. The Refuge began developing a program to control invasive pepperweed in 2004. Since 2005, a complete census of pepperweed was conducted across 1,500 acres of tidal marsh. A plan for pepperweed control was developed by the Refuge in 2007. The Refuge will continue to adapt the plan based on control results and new information from this project. This project will provide an opportunity to continue this work and further refine methods for control and to develop an early detection and rapid response program for those areas where pepperweed has been significantly reduced. The Refuge recognizes that early detection and rapid response will be a critical component of long-term control following large-scale treatments. These data, combined with the best available scientific information on control, were used to develop a pepperweed control plan in partnership with University of California, Davis (UCD) Center for the Environment. Studies of pepperweed control were conducted on the Refuge by UCD students from 2003-2006. These studies show that control of pepperweed is highly achievable. Results from research will be shared with conservation groups working on the control of invasive plants throughout upland marsh transition zone communities. The Refuge will conduct pepperweed mapping and control activities outside of this request.

Plant Propagation and Restoration. 1STRAW will conduct 3 days of on-the-ground restoration activities to remove invasive species and install native plants along the project site’s marsh-upland transition zone. STRAW’s Native Plant Nursery Coordinator, stationed at the Refuge, will propagate plants at its native plant nursery. At least 3,000 plants annually representing 12 native plant species will be propagated from seed collected from local sources (< 15 miles from the project area). Many of the species we are considering for this project have been previously transplanted to select areas of the Refuge and have successfully established populations. Restoration activities include site preparation, plant propagation, installing native plants, monitoring and maintenance of plants. Two acres of levee will be planted in 2010. Revegetation of these smaller areas will create source populations that, over time will naturally spread to areas where weeds or invasives have been removed. Restoration activities performed in 2006 - 2009 are showing the capacity of these “source” populations to spread.

Environmental Science Education. STRAW will work with up to nine K-12 classes (270 students) to conduct restoration activities at the site. Students will participate in data collection, native plant propagation, and revegetation. The project involves multiple field trips and hands-on participation in restoration activities. Environmental education topics taught in the classroom emphasize watershed activities, the importance of restoration activities for bird habitat, and student participation in planting experimentation and monitoring. PRBO will conduct field activities in bird ecology in partnership with STRAW. Students participate in professionally-designed habitat restoration planned by the Refuge Wildlife Biologist in the fall of 2010.

Monitoring and Maintenance. Native plants are intensely monitored in spring 2011 to count plant survival after the winter season. Monitoring of native plants begins in spring 2011, or when the rainy season ends. Plants will be watered and weeded throughout the spring and summer until the rainy season begins again in the late fall. Plants will be monitored for a three-year plant establishment period. The Refuge will monitor pepperweed populations and the establishment of planted areas as part of its biological program. The goal of pepperweed levels on the Refuge is zero percent cover to be achieved through early detection and rapid response to small patches that establish following large scale treatments. Maintenance commences following elimination of current large infestations on the Refuge. Evaluation of treatment efficacy will occur 1-year post-treatment when the capacity of pepperweed rhizomes to regenerate is observable. The Refuge developed and implemented a training program for volunteers to map invasive plants and provides training to other Refuges across the nation.

c. Explain if the project is part of a larger regional and/or local effort and describe involvement by other project partners: The project is part of a larger project to restore 1,500 acres of degraded tidal marsh habitat and revegetate the marsh-upland transition with native plants at the Refuge. All restoration efforts are overseen by the Refuge and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

4. Identify the specific measures of success, including the acres (i.e., acres of habitat restored or created) and the type(s) of habitat to be restored or created.



  • Restore 2 acres of marsh upland transition zone and enhance 1,500 acres of tidal marsh on the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

  • Protect and improve aquatic habitat for NOAA Trust Resources steelhead, Chinook salmon, and green sturgeon.

  • Implement recovery actions for federal and state endangered species (California clapper rail, California black rail, salt marsh harvest mouse).

  • Improve habitat conditions for migratory shorebirds and waterfowl including enhanced nesting, foraging and breeding grounds.

  • Engage 270 school-aged children in the restoration process and educate the students on topics including tidal marsh ecology, and restoration science.

5. Describe the restoration methodology/scientific techniques to be used: The Marsh-Upland Transition Zone. A key aspect of improving the health of existing tidal marsh and recovery of sensitive tidal marsh species is the restoration of the marsh-upland transition zone, also known as the marsh-upland ecotone draft Tidal Marsh Recovery Plan. Tidal marsh restoration and enhancement designs primarily focus on the intertidal zone, which is the area between mean lower low water (MLLW) and mean higher high water (MHHW).  The tidal marsh ecosystem includes all environments that estuarine-dependent populations use to survive, some populations of which require the environment also found above MHHW (the marsh-upland transition zone). The draft U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Tidal Marsh/ Endangered Species Recovery Plan for the Estuary and other regional planning documents recognize that future restoration designs and management of existing tidal marsh lands must include the marsh-upland transition zone. Native plant structure is also key to providing many fish and bird species with shelter from predators during high tide events. Detailed mapping efforts by the Refuge have shown the prevalence of pepperweed in the marsh-upland transition zone, especially in areas where competitive native species are not present. Once established, pepperweed then spreads into the lower tidal marsh zones. Control of invasive species such as pepperweed must be combined with active restoration of marsh-upland plant communities for either effort to be successful. Also refer to discussion in 2b, above, regarding methodology.

6. Describe the community involvement through an educational and/or volunteer component: Students from nine classes from nearby schools will participate in plant propagation and revegetation activities. A total of 325 volunteers are expected to participate. Volunteers include students, teachers, parents, and other community members who will be educated on the need for tidal marsh restoration to benefit habitat for endangered and threatened species of fish and wildlife. All community members involved in the project learn about the threats of invasive species and how their impacts can be lessened and the importance of restored habitat to positively affect fish and wildlife.

7. Monitoring Plan and Provisions for on-going Protection and Long-term Management.

Revegetation efforts will be monitored annually by the percent of cover of native plants and their spread into the tidal marsh. We will compare plant cover values in revegetated in contrast to control areas. Vegetated plots will be monitored annually and the data analyzed to provide information on changes in cover by species. Revegetation efforts will be monitored for a total of three years. Vegetation Monitoring. Vegetation performance will be evaluated on: 1) Vegetation health (% cover, height) in the marsh plain; 2) Native plant cover relative to invasive plant cover in the marsh plain and the marsh-upland transition zone; and 3) Plant survival. The goal is to improve the health (structure+function) of native marsh vegetation in identified problem areas. Increased height or cover of tidal marsh is one of the metrics by which success will be evaluated. Success will also be measured by the reduction of non-native and invasive plant cover. Historic outplant survivorship rates at STRAW restorations are 60% or greater. Similar successes are expected with this project. Native plants will be maintained for three years or until the plants are spreading. The Refuge will continue monitoring these planted areas on an annual basis until plant populations are self-sustaining. Revegetation Efficacy. 1Survivorship by species and restoration subsites will be monitored during the first year following planting. In year two, native versus non-native percent plant cover will be evaluated using percent cover measures in planted areas. Outplants and planting areas are marked in the field at the time of planting with flags to assist with monitoring of individual plants. Site specific variables that contribute to plant mortality are identified and adaptively managed. Variables with the greatest effect on plant mortality at the Refuge include precipitation levels and winter storm events.



8. Provide a detailed project activity schedule:

Native plant propagation is on-going and conducted year-round beginning in spring 2010.

Revegetation with native plants will occur with K-12 students in the fall of 2010, preceded by preparation in summer 2010. Hydroseeding will take place in fall 2010.

Environmental Science Education with K-12 students. Environmental education occurs throughout the 2010-11 school year.

Monitoring and Maintenance will begin in Spring 2011 and continue through 2013.

VI. Supplemental Information


1. Diagram and photos of project site, attached

Sonoma Baylands: Latitude N. 38.2395, Longitude W -122.6713







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