On a small but biologically valuable shoreline property in Inverness, our Conservation Science and Stewardship Teams are restoring transitional habitat for the largest tidal wetland area on Tomales Bay.
Once fully restored, the property will extend the adjacent habitat values of Shields Marsh, a publicly accessible, four-acre ACR preserve adjoining the State of California's Tomales Bay Ecological Reserve and just bayward of the Giacomini Wetlands Restoration site. In addition, Shields Marsh is one of the many survey stations around Tomales Bay from which we have been tracking baywide shorebird use since 1989.
Characterized by dense vegetation on the upper terraces, brackish and salt marshes, and the open waters of the bay, this generous land donation by Helen McLaren supports numerous breeding and wintering birds, and provides us with a rare opportunity to bring back natural habitat.
According to ACR's Director of Conservation Science, John Kelly, Ph.D., "This is not a typical wetland restoration. In addition to restoring habitat values and promoting the natural flow of water through the McLaren property, we are removing the house, a nearby building, the driveway, the layer of fill beneath the building site and all gas, electric, water and septic systems.
A grove of acacias and other non-native trees draped with tangles of non-native holly, English ivy and wisteria will be replaced with native riparian vegetation. Revegetation is expected to enhance the associated fauna of ground and foliage insects and other invertebrates, improving foraging conditions for wintering and nesting songbirds."
One key dimension of this restoration is that the restored property has an elevational gradient of wetland habitat—from coastal riparian terrace to brackish freshwater marsh to tidal saltmarsh. This habitat gradient will provide space for “marsh migration” needed to reduce the extent to which tidal marshes will be lost to future sea level rise.
"Because the future extent of many coastal wetlands is limited by hardened edges associated with human development," said John Kelly, "conservation efforts must prioritize the protection of sites such as the McLaren property. Here, the elevational gradient is large enough to sustain an interwoven mix of peripheral wetland habitats as sea levels rise."
The McLaren property restoration increases the extent of the protected and restored wetland landscape in southern Tomales Bay. Once the initial restoration work is completed, we will continue to provide ongoing stewardship and expect native vegetation will continue to recover over the next few years.