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Bays and Estuary Research

Humboldt Bay and Eel River Estuary Subtidal and Intertidal Habitat Goals Project

Ropers Slough, tributary to the Eel River Estuary, Humboldt County. CDFW photo by Steve Cannata.

Humboldt Bay and the Eel River Estuary contain diverse physical habitats including:

  • Rivers
  • Brackish and salt marshes
  • Eelgrass meadows
  • Tidal flats
  • Large benthic areas of sand, mud and gravel
  • Sand and rock beaches

The subtidal and intertidal habitats in Humboldt Bay and Eel River Estuary have not been the focus of much research and consequently are not well understood. The collaborative Humboldt Bay and Eel River Estuary Subtidal and Intertidal Habitat Goals Project (Habitat Goals Project) was established to identify, document, and describe subtidal and intertidal habitats and the living plant and animal assemblages of Humboldt Bay and the Eel River Estuary. The mission of the Habitat Goals Project is to integrate information about bay and estuarine habitats and selected species, identify research needs, and develop ecosystem-based management recommendations using a collaborative process.

The Habitat Goals Project will also identify challenges and threats to the Humboldt Bay-Eel River Estuary ecosystem and provide a scientific basis to guide protection strategies, restoration and research priorities, and the management policies of public resource agencies. The report that results from this project will provide a useful resource for planners, managers, restoration groups, and researchers.

Contact

Kirsten Ramey, Associate Marine Biologist
Phone: (707) 445-5365
Email: Kirsten.Ramey@wildlife.ca.gov

Additional Information

Humboldt Bay Cooperative Eelgrass Project

Native eelgrass, Zostera marina, in Humboldt Bay. Photo courtesy of Annie Eicher/UC ANR.

The Humboldt Bay Cooperative Eelgrass Project is a collaborative project involving the CDFW, U.C. Sea Grant, Humboldt State University, and the Humboldt Bay Harbor District. Since 2001, this team has been surveying and monitoring the native eelgrass, Zostera marina, at 15 randomly selected points in Humboldt Bay. Each summer, project collaborators measure each site for plant size, density and total above ground biomass by collecting vegetative material from the site. In addition to the 15 random sites, two transects are surveyed quarterly at the foot of Washington Street in Eureka; eelgrass shoots are measured and counted at this site though no plant material is removed. The results are shared among collaborators and resource managers, and project outreach includes numerous presentations to local groups.

This project also coordinates with SeagrassNet, an international seagrass monitoring project based out of the University of New Hampshire. SeagrassNet monitors changes in seagrass populations in 43 locations worldwide. Humboldt Bay is the most recent addition to this network with two permanent transects, one in Arcata Bay and one in South Bay. Surveys are conducted quarterly with the first held in July 2007. Surveys collect data on percent cover, plant density, total plant biomass, canopy height, and water salinity. A core sediment sample is also collected along with a photographic record of the site. Seagrass "voucher" specimens collected during the core sediment sample are sent to the Smithsonian for preservation and storage. This study is scheduled to go on indefinitely. This is the first SeagrassNet site in California, and the third on the entire West Coast of the Americas.

Blades of dwarf eelgrass, Zostera japonica, compared to native eelgrass, Zostera marina. Photo courtesy of Annie Eicher/UC ANR.

Dwarf eelgrass, Zostera japonica, was discovered in Humboldt Bay in June 2002 during the annual native eelgrass survey conducted by the Humboldt Bay Cooperative Eelgrass Project. The detection of dwarf eelgrass in Humboldt Bay represents the southern extent of its range in the Eastern Pacific, and it is the first time this introduced species has been encountered in California. Dwarf eelgrass is a non-native, invasive eelgrass that rapidly colonizes non-vegetated mudflats, physically altering native habitat and negatively impacting native species. Dwarf eelgrass can be distinguished from the native eelgrass, Zostera marina, by its very narrow blades After the discovery of dwarf eelgrass, a team of state and local scientists was assembled to assess the available information on this invasive and the extent of its introduction into Humboldt Bay. It was the consensus of the team and other marine scientists that an eradication program should be undertaken. Eradication efforts were initiated in April 2003 by a team of volunteers coordinated by U.C. Sea Grant in collaboration with the CDFW. Since April 2004, a team of scientists, students, and volunteers have been annually monitoring and eradicating all known occurrences of dwarf eelgrass in Humboldt Bay.

Contact

Kirsten Ramey, Associate Marine Biologist
Phone: (707) 445-5365
Email: Kirsten.Ramey@wildlife.ca.gov

Additional Information

Humboldt Bay Ecosystem-Based Management Project

Rainbow over Indian Island, North Humboldt Bay. Photo courtesy of Annie Eicher/UC ANR.

The Humboldt Bay Ecosystem Program was created in November 2006 with funding from the State Coastal Conservancy by a group of resource managers and scientists who were inspired by a unique combination of planning, community involvement, national, state and local policy. The goal was to develop proposals to facilitate the development of an ecosystem-based management (EBM) program for Humboldt Bay, the Humboldt Bay Watershed, and adjacent nearshore coastal waters.

Ecosystem-based management seeks to balance ecological, economic, and social considerations in a science-based management approach so that ecosystem integrity and human well-being are maintained, improved, and perhaps most importantly, sustainable. It takes into consideration external influences, cumulative impacts and changing conditions, and acknowledges that ecosystem processes and human interactions are inherently linked, and that our understanding of them is incomplete.

The purpose of the Humboldt Bay Ecosystem-based Management Project is to develop a practical implementation method for an ecosystems approach. The program will build an ecosystem-based management framework, prepare two to six proposals on high priority issues, and develop recommendations for establishment and maintenance of a Humboldt Bay Ecosystem database. The Humboldt Bay Ecosystem-based Management Program will encourage innovative and synthetic thinking to evaluate effects and recommend management actions.

Contact

Kirsten Ramey, Associate Marine Biologist
Phone: (707) 445-5365
Email: Kirsten.Ramey@wildlife.ca.gov

Additional Information



Marine Region (Region 7)
Regional Manager: Dr. Craig Shuman
Main Office: 20 Lower Ragsdale Drive, Suite 100, Monterey, CA  93940
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