Acknowledgements 5 executive summary

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Chapter VII. ESNERR Goal #5

Protect and Restore Key Coast Live Oak Habitats
A. Introduction
Coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia) woodland is common in the Elkhorn Slough watershed and is often found growing on 15 to 50 percent slopes and loamy sands in the hills east of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research reserve (Elkhorn Slough NERR). On the Reserve, oak woodlands also frequently appear on the slopes of dissected terraces. Oak woodland can range from dense forests with closed canopies at moderately moist sites, to widely-spaced open woodland or savannah in drier areas. Oak understory vegetation is also variable. Where the canopy is closed, understory vegetation often includes shade-tolerant shrubs, ferns, and forbs. Where trees are scattered, the understory is commonly made up of grassland and occasional shrubs (Holland 1988). At Elkhorn Slough NERR, the overstory is made up exclusively of coast live oak, and common native understory species include poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum), sword fern (Polystichum munitum), California blackberry (Rubus ursinus), hedge nettle (Stachys bullata), snowberry, (Symphoricarpos albus var. laevigatus), coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica and R. tomentella), beeplant (Scrophularia californica) and miner’s lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata). Creeping wildrye (Leymus triticoides) and Santa Barbara sedge (Carex barbarae) also occur in open woodlands.
Coastal oak woodlands provide habitat for a variety of wildlife species, including many mammals and a wide range of birds. According to California Partners in Flight and the Point Reyes Bird Observatory (2002), oak woodlands have the richest wildlife species abundance of any habitat in California, and may rank among the top three habitat types in North America for bird richness. The California Wildlife Habitat Relationships System lists over 200 animal species that live in or otherwise use coastal oak woodlands in Monterey County. In the Elkhorn Slough watershed these include nesting white tailed kites (CDFG Fully Protected) and golden eagles (CDFG Special Concern Species), and seasonally, Santa Cruz long-toed salamanders (Federally and State Endangered).
It is unknown how many oaks in the Elkhorn Slough watershed have been lost over the last 150 years. Comparisons between mid-nineteenth century surveys and recent aerial photos hint at large-scale changes. When surveying the boundaries of Spanish land grants and township and range lines in the 1850s and 60s, the U.S. Surveyor General mapped many natural features, including oak trees. In the Elkhorn Slough watershed, oaks were therefore mapped on the boundaries of the San Cayetano, Los Carneros, and Bolsa Nueva y Moro Cojo ranchos, and along the public lands north of Hall Road, on the Springfield Terrace, and in the hills approximately 3.5 kilometers east of today’s Elkhorn Slough NERR. Only half of the survey points shown as coast live oak in the 1800s are oak habitat today. Approximately 40% of the originally mapped oaks have since been converted to agricultural fields or grassland, while the other approximately 10% have since been replaced by non-native eucalyptus or pine trees (U.S. Survey General 1872, Foreman 1867, Terrell 1859, Day 1854, Freeman 1854). Many of these woodlands were undoubtedly cut down for firewood (Fig. 7.1) or otherwise cleared for crops and buildings. Today residential development threatens to further fragment remaining oak habitat (Scharffenberger 1999), and Sudden Oak Death (caused by the fungus-like Phytophthora ramorum) threatens oaks throughout coastal California. Phytophthora ramorum is presumed to be an introduced pathogen in the United States (Braiser 2003). Furthermore, exotic plants continue to threaten standing oak groves and the abundance and diversity of understory plant assemblages. However, oak recruitment in the Elkhorn Slough watershed is complex. In many areas, coast live oak woodland has recovered from past clearing, and in some areas it continues to expand. In the absence of fire it has even been shown to invade sensitive maritime chaparral habitat (Van Dyke and Holl 2001).

Figure 7.1. 1875 advertisement for land in and around the Elkhorn Slough watershed, stressing the availability of oaks for firewood.
The Elkhorn Slough NERR has been successfully restoring coast live oak trees for over fifteen years. In the 1990s, staff, volunteers, and work crews removed a 13-acre exotic eucalyptus grove on the northern portion of the Reserve and, in its place, planted thousands of coast live oak acorns. Today, an open oak woodland, interspersed with scrub and grassland habitat, is developing in the area. Volunteers, school groups, and staff have also successfully planted hundreds of oaks on two north facing slopes, an area that was previously dominated by non-native radish, annual grasses, veldt grass, and Italian thistle. Dozens of oaks have also been planted elsewhere on the Reserve, restoring widely scattered oak trees known to have existed historically, but lost during the mid-1900s. More recently, as previously planted oaks have begun to mature, Reserve stewards have focused on oak understory restoration projects. We have successfully removed over two acres of invasive Cape ivy (Delairea odorata) and English ivy (Hedera helix), and we are currently experimenting with native shrub, forb, and grass plantings.
As in other habitats, invasive species in oak woodlands are very difficult to eradicate once they have become widespread and abundant. Therefore management efforts are focused on 1) identifying and prioritizing areas for exotic species monitoring and control efforts, 2) prevention of new introductions, 3) early detection and eradication of new introductions before establishment and spread, and 4) control strategies to prevent further spread of already widespread weeds and that help favor dominance by native assemblages. We also will complete an investigation of the habitat use of native oak vs. non-native eucalyptus groves. The Reserve’s actions fall into these areas, as described below.
B. ESNERR Objectives and Strategies

Staff from the Reserve’s Stewardship Program and Research Program are involved in the following objectives and strategies
Objective 1: Protect the watershed’s coast live oak habitats from biological invaders.

  1. The Stewardship staff will create a GIS map of historical coast live oak woodland in the Elkhorn Slough watershed.

  1. The Stewardship staff will prevent the spread of exotic plants into high priority remnant or restored oak woodlands. Weed seeds can be transported on shoes and clothing. In order to prevent new invasions in remnant or restored oak understory, we will develop and implement an oak woodland access plan that decreases the likelihood of weed introductions.

  1. The Stewardship staff will prevent the establishment of exotic pigs on the Elkhorn Slough NERR. In order to accomplish this we will:

            1. continue to survey oak woodlands for evidence of feral pigs.

            2. if found, coordinate with the California Department of Fish and Game and local agencies to remove pigs.

  1. The Stewardship staff will control prioritized invasive weeds through mechanical and chemical means in coast live oak understories. In order to accomplish this we will:

            1. continue to monitor and control California Invasive Plant Council’s (Cal-IPC) “high” priority invasive weeds in oak woodlands - those exotics which have the greatest impact on native habitats and those which will become more difficult to control if action is delayed. Target species are Cape ivy (Delairea odorata), English ivy (Hedera helix), French broom (Genista monspessulana), and Himalayan blackberry (Rubus discolor).

            2. control, when and where possible, Cal-IPC “moderate” priority species that are currently limited in extent, including bull thistle (Cirsium vulgare), calla lily (Zantadeschia aethiopica), panic veldt grass (Ehrharta erecta), and periwinkle (Vinca major).

  1. The Stewardship staff will remove exotic eucalyptus trees where they threaten existing coast live oak woodland. In order to accomplish this we will:

            1. continue to monitor for and remove eucalyptus saplings on the Elkhorn Slough NERR, with particular attention given to the perimeters of existing eucalyptus groves, around freshwater ponds, and near coast live oak woodlands.

            2. investigate the possibility of removing small outlier eucalyptus groves, especially where they grow adjacent to existing oak woodland.

  1. The Stewardship and Education staff will prevent the establishment of Sudden Oak Death (SOD) on Elkhorn Slough NERR. In order to accomplish this we will:

            1. continue to have visitors, researchers, volunteers, and staff clean their shoes before walking the trails or working in oak woodlands.

            2. regularly check for P. ramorum symptoms on host plans. Symptomatic plants will be sampled and submitted to the CA Department of Food and Agriculture lab for testing.

            3. keep staff up-to-date on symptom recognition and best management practices to prevent pathogen introduction.

Objective 2: Investigate the habitat use of native oak vs. non-native eucalyptus groves.

  1. The Research staff will complete an on-going study of arthropod and bird abundance and species composition in paired oak and eucalyptus groves, in order to better understand consequences of eucalyptus invasions for native animal communities.

C. References
Braiser, Clive. 2003. Sudden oak death: Phytophthora ramorum exhibits Transatlantic differences. Mycological Research 107:258-259.
California Partners in Flight. 2002. Version 2.0. The oak woodland bird conservation plan: a strategy for protecting and managing oak woodland habitats and associated birds in California (S. Zack, lead author). Point Reyes Bird Observatory, Stinson Beach, CA.
Day, Sherman. 1854 Field Notes of Surveys of Township and Range Lines. U.S. Surveyor General. Copies available from BLM.
Foreman, S. W. 1866. Transcripts of the Field Notes of a Survey of the Subdivision and Meander Lines of Township 13 South Range 2 East and Township 12 South Range 2 East. Copies available from BLM.
Freeman, James E. October 20, 1854. Field Notes of Surveys of Township and Range Lines. U.S. Surveyor General. Copies available from BLM.
Holland, V. L. 1988. Coast oak woodland. Updated 2005 by CWHR staff. In Mayer, Kenneth E., and William F. Laudenslayer, Jr. (eds.) Coastal A Guide to Wildlife Habitats of California. 1988. State of California, Resources Agency, Department of Fish and Game. Sacramento, CA.
Monahan, William B., and Walter D. Koenig. 2006. Estimating the potential effects of sudden oak death on oak-dependent birds. Biological Conservation 127:146-157.
Scharffenberger, T. 1999. Elkhorn Slough Watershed Conservation Plan. Elkhorn Slough Foundation and The Nature Conservancy. Unpublished report, on file at Elkhorn Slough NERR.
Terrell, J. E. May 1859. Plat and field notes of Los Carneros Rancho finally confirmed to the heirs of David Littlejohn. U.S. Surveyor General. Copies available from BLM
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 1999. Draft Revised Recovery Plan for the Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamander. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Portland, OR.
U.S. Survey General. Compiled December 1872. Plat and field notes of the Rancho Bolsa Nuevo y Moro Cojo finally confirmed to Maria Antonia Pico de Castro et al. Map and notes available from BLM.
Van Dyke, Eric and Karen D. Holl. 2001. Maritime chaparral community transition in the absence of fire. Madroño 48:221-229
Chapter VIII. ESNERR Goal #6

Reduce Pollution across the Elkhorn Slough Watershed
A. Introduction

Estuarine habitats often have particularly high levels of pollution relative to other coastal habitats, because human uses such as industry, agriculture, residential development, and harbors are often densely concentrated around them (Kennish 2002). Virtually all such human uses of the estuary and adjacent land potentially can supply some contaminants to adjacent habitats– for instance industrial chemicals, agricultural fertilizers and pesticides, residential sewage, and boat paints. In estuarine habitats of the Elkhorn Slough watershed, numerous contaminants from a variety of sources have been identified. In this largely rural watershed, the main cause of water and sediment quality degradation is agricultural non-point source pollution (Caffrey 2002, Phillips et al. 2002).

The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve’s (Elkhorn Slough NERR) water quality monitoring program has documented elevated nutrient levels in watershed wetlands. For instance, in the South Harbor, Tembladero Slough, and old Salinas river channel, nitrates average over 50 mg/L (vs. safe drinking water standard of 10 mg/L), and the peak values at these sites are among the highest ever reported for estuarine ecosystems (Caffrey 2002). In the main channel of Elkhorn Slough, nitrate concentrations are lower, averaging 5 mg/L or less. However even in these areas strongly flushed by the tides, higher concentrations occur in the rainy season, partly due to subwatershed sources. This is shown through data generated by the Elkhorn Slough NERR’s System-wide water quality monitoring program, which has detected higher levels of nutrients in Reserve wetlands on outgoing tides, attributable to local sources, than on incoming tides. Furthermore, an array of in-situ nitrate monitoring instruments has recently documented nitrate from Salinas River channel / Tembladero Slough sources traveling up the Slough, into and well past the Reserve (K. Johnson in prep;
Nitrate concentrations in Elkhorn watershed wetlands have increased two orders of magnitude since the 1920s (Caffrey 2002). In addition to high levels of nutrients, significant concentrations of legacy agricultural pesticides such as DDT, newer pesticides, and fecal coliform bacteria have been documented in some watershed wetlands, with highest levels in the areas receiving the most freshwater run-off (Phillips et al. 2002).
Though watershed pollution levels are well documented, there have been few studies of the direct ecological impacts of this pollution on Elkhorn Slough habitats. Parkin (1998) attributed the reproductive failure of a Caspian Tern colony to high levels of DDT and other contaminants she documented in eggs and embryos in a flood year. Beck & Bruland (2000) documented extremely high productivity and resultant hypoxia in a Slough wetland. Byrd et al. (2004) have shown that agricultural erosion can result in sediment fans that bury adjacent wetlands and result in marsh loss. Water collected from Tembladero Slough and sediments from the Moss Landing Harbor have been shown to cause toxicity to small crustaceans, attributed to organophosphate pesticides (Hunt et al. 2003, Anderson et al. 2004). In addition to these documented impacts, other ecological changes may be occurring in response to agricultural pollutants, as demonstrated at other estuaries, including many with nutrient-loading less than seen in some estuarine habitats in the Elkhorn watershed (Kennish 2002). These can include losses and declines of species due directly to sensitivity to high contaminant concentrations, or due to indirect effects such as increased hypoxia and macroalgal blooms associated with high nutrient concentrations (Valiela et al 1997).
The fundamental approach required to reduce pollution across watershed habitats is to decrease the amount of agricultural run-off and sediments leaving farms, and/or to decrease the concentration of contaminants in them. A number of organizations (Natural Resources Conservation Service, Resource Conservation District of Monterey County, Regional Water Quality Control Board, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, Agricultural and Land-based Training Alliance, Community Alliance of Family Farmers, Monterey County Farm Bureau, UC Cooperative Extension) have and continue to encourage, teach, and assist growers and landowners in improving land practices in the Elkhorn watershed, or by owning land and managing it directly. With on-going training efforts, voluntary improvements, acquisition by land trusts of farmed lands adjacent to wetlands, and increasingly strict regulations, agricultural pollution is likely to decrease in the coming decades.
B. ESNERR Objectives and Strategies

Staff from the Reserve’s Education Program, Coastal Training Program, Stewardship Program, and Research Program are involved in the following objectives and strategies
The Reserve’s niche with regard to reducing agricultural pollution is primarily to support organizations more directly involved with improving farming practices. In particular, the Reserve can provide scientific information and education materials to improve decision-making about agricultural pollution. We will help inform key audiences about estuarine resources and how they are sensitive to agricultural pollution. We will collect, analyze, and disseminate water quality data. We will raise awareness about sources of contaminant-loading outside the watershed and help develop possible solutions. Finally, we will attempt to decrease direct effects of agricultural pollution on our own Reserve lands.
Objective 1: Improve understanding of pollution levels, sources, and effects on coastal habitats.

  1. The Research staff will continue SWMP and monthly 24-station water quality monitoring programs (see Chapter IX).

  2. The Research staff will analyze these water quality data to detect changes in water quality linked to upland land use practices and water control structure management.

  3. The Research staff will conduct literature search to examine potential ecological impacts of nutrient levels documented in Elkhorn watershed wetlands.

  4. The Research staff will convene at least two water quality workshops for key regional agencies, organizations, and researchers involved in water quality sampling or regulation. Provide presentations on Elkhorn Slough NERR data on nutrient pollution levels, correlates, and potential ecological consequences, and facilitate information exchange about water quality issues.

Objective 2: Generate and disseminate information on estuarine values and how they are affected by pollution.

  1. The Education staff will support education efforts through the visitor center and school programs. Content for educational materials on pollution will be informed by the Research team and incorporated into docent training materials, teacher curriculum materials, and visitor center exhibits as is determined appropriate by education program strategic planning.

  2. The Education staff will provide educational experiences that inform audiences how estuarine resources are affected by pollution. This will include opportunities for hands-on field experiences, such as water quality monitoring activities, that illustrate basic concepts behind the movement of pollutants in the watershed

  3. The Education staff will develop an interactive computer exhibit to highlight nutrient dynamics data resulting from the Reserve’s water monitoring program and the Land-Ocean-Biogeochemical-Observatory of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

  4. With the assistance of the Research staff, the CTP staff will one workshop with key agencies to document and share current knowledge about agricultural pollution impacts on estuarine wildlife and water quality with regional decision makers and scientists.

  5. The CTP staff will serve as a clearing house for information on agricultural pollution impacts on estuarine wildlife and water quality to enable decision makers to develop regional policy or prioritize efforts based on the best available science.

  6. With the assistance of the Research staff, the CTP staff will post on the website information related to pollution on the Reserve’s habitats.

Objective 3: Decrease effects of agricultural run-off and erosion on the Reserve.

  1. The Stewardship staff will maintain and enhance structures that decrease the effects of agricultural run-off from neighboring agricultural lands (e.g., pipe into Willow Bend; sediment basin above lower Cattail Swale).

C. References

Anderson BS, Hunt JW, Phillips BM, Nicely PA, MartinM, Tjeerdema RS. 2004. Comparison of in situ and laboratory toxicity tests with the estuarine amphipod Eohaustorius estuarius.  Archives of Environmental Contaminant. Toxicology, 46: 52-60.

Beck NG, Bruland KW. 2000. Diel biogeochemical cycling in a hyperventilating shallow estuarine environment. Estuaries, 23: 177-187.
Byrd KB, Kelly NM, Van Dyke E (2004) Decadal changes in a Pacific estuary: a multi-source remote sensing approach to historical ecology. GIScience and Remote Sensing 41:347-370.
Caffrey J (2002) Biogeochemical cycling. Chapter 12 in Caffrey J, Brown M, Tyler WB, Silberstein M, eds. Changes in a California Estuary. Elkhorn Slough Foundation, Moss Landing, California.
Hunt JW, Anderson BS, Phillips BM, Nicely PA, Tjeerdema RS, Puckett HM, Stephenson, M, Worcester K, deVlaming V (2003)  Ambient toxicity due to chlorpyrifos and diazinon in a Central California Watershed. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 82: 83-112.
Kennish MJ (2002) Environmental threats and environmental future of estuaries. Environmental Conservation 29: 78-107.
Parkin JL (1998) Ecology of breeding Caspian terns, Sterna caspia. in Elkhorn Slough, California. M.S. Thesis, San Jose State University.
Phillips B, Stephenson M, Jacobi M, Ichikawa G, Silberstein M, Brown M (2002). Land use and contaminants. Chapter 13 in Caffrey J, Brown M, Tyler WB, Silberstein M, eds. Changes in a California Estuary. Elkhorn Slough Foundation, Moss Landing, California.
Valiela I, McClelland J, Hauxwell J, Behr PJ, Hersh D, Foreman K (1997) Macroalgal blooms in shallow estuaries: controls and ecophysiological and ecosystem consequences. Limnology and oceanography 42:1105-1148.

Chapter IX. ESNERR Goal #7

Monitor Key Indicators of Coastal Ecosystem Health to Enhance Understanding of Spatial and Temporal Variation and Long-term Trends
A. Introduction

Long-term monitoring programs – those carried out consistently for at least a decade, and ideally many decades – are vital for detecting spatial and temporal trends in ecosystems, and for distinguishing natural from anthropogenic perturbations. Long-term datasets improve our understanding of, and thus decision-making about, complex ecological processes that occur at large spatial and temporal scales (Vos et al. 2000). In order for long-term monitoring programs to succeed, they must have strong institutional support and the explicit commitment to their consistent continuation over decades. While academic institutions are ideally suited to supporting scientists that carry out short-term research projects, and environmental consulting firms are often appropriate for completing finite restoration monitoring to determine whether quantitative objectives of a project have been met, neither of these types of organizations are likely to take on the commitment required for consistent continuity of long-term monitoring programs.

In the Elkhorn watershed, the Elkhorn Slough Reserve is ideally suited to designing and implementing long-term monitoring. There is strong institutional support at the local (Elkhorn Slough NERR) and national (National Estuarine Research Reserve System) level for carrying out high quality, consistent monitoring of key indicators of coastal health. The Reserve is committed to continuing its role as a leader in regional monitoring.
Purposes of long-term monitoring, with examples from the Elkhorn Watershed

  1. Characterize current baseline conditions against which to evaluate future trends. Well-chosen monitoring indicators are capable of providing continued assessments even over a wide range of future stresses (Noss 1990). In the Elkhorn watershed, there is no water quality or biological data from the period preceding major human alterations to habitats and ecological processes. This makes it hard to assess past ecological impacts of various threats and to set restoration targets. The Reserve is now committed to collecting such data so that resource managers a century into the future can assess how these indicators have changed. The Reserve is fortunate to have habitat change data (from old maps and photographs) that reveals 150 years of largely human-induced changes (Van Dyke and Wasson 2005). This dataset has been instrumental for motivating conservation action and setting restoration targets (see Tidal Wetland Project, Chapter III). This is a fine example of how baseline monitoring can support resource management and the public in setting and refining regional objectives by improving understanding of the status and trends of resources (Ringold et al. 1996), and in the future, the baseline water quality and biological data we are today collecting will serve this function.

  1. Serve as an early warning for potential new threats. Each Reserve long-term monitoring program can detect marked changes in indicators of estuarine health (Vos et al. 2000). Data are usually analyzed within weeks of collection, and always within a year. If average values of indicators are more than two standard deviations from the average of the previous periods, Reserve staff contact regional researchers and resource management agencies to spark further investigations into the geographic extent of a potential crisis and its likely causes and possible solutions. For instance, declines of California Red-legged Frogs detected by the Reserve resulted in collaborations with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and regional managers, and stimulated research on amphibian diseases in the watershed.

  1. Identify potential impacts of emerging threats. Sensitive monitoring indicators can provide early warning about effects of environmental changes (Noss 1990). For instance, Reserve biological monitoring data from the past five years has revealed that a new invader to Elkhorn Slough, the European Green Crab, rapidly went from extreme rarity to high abundance, while native crab abundance declined. In the future, Reserve breeding bird monitoring will serve as a sensitive indicator of local effects of global warming, since nesting would be likely to be initiated earlier. Reserve wetland habitat monitoring can detect changes in marsh cover in response to sea level rise.

  1. Improve restoration strategies for threatened species. Reserve amphibian monitoring data on declines of threatened species have motivated improved Reserve and regional management of ponds (for appropriate hydroperiod and bullfrog eradication). Reserve intertidal monitoring has shed light on the extreme rarity and habitat requirements of native estuarine oysters and brackish snails, informing restoration and management strategies for these species.

  1. Suggest causes of observed patterns. In general, long-term monitoring programs are much better suited for detecting patterns than for identifying the processes behind them. Short-term manipulative experiments are more appropriate for demonstrating the mechanisms behind observed changes. However, a well-designed monitoring program can at least provide circumstantial evidence of potential causes behind the patterns, if sampling is carried out at appropriate spatial and temporal scales. In this way, indicators being measured can be used to distinguish between natural cycles and trends resulting from anthropogenic stress (Noss 1990). For instance, the Reserve volunteer water monitoring program is carried out monthly at 24 stations in the watershed. This spatial scale has been essential for detecting predictors of poor water quality; the data reveal a strong role for both agricultural run-off and water control structure management in influencing nutrient concentrations. Likewise, the high temporal resolution of the Reserve NERR system-wide water quality program has revealed varying sources of nutrient loading. In the dry season, the highest nutrients are measured on incoming tides, suggesting an oceanic source, while in the rainy season, the highest nutrients are found at low tide, suggesting a subwatershed source.

  1. Stimulate further research and management efforts. The data from Reserve monitoring programs are regularly requested by and made available to researchers and resource managers, regionally and even nationwide. The Reserve receives hundreds of requests a year, particularly for water quality data and GIS layers. Many investigators, particularly regional graduate students, choose to carry out research at Elkhorn Slough because of the availability of baseline monitoring data and because these have highlighted interesting patterns that merit further exploration. By providing these data, we thus can stimulate additional research at the Slough, and direct it towards critical gaps in conservation priorities.

To improve the management of complex coastal ecosystems, it is important to use a combination of different indicators at multiple scales, from ecosystems to habitats to species (Noss 1990, Wilson 1994). Reserve monitoring programs fall into three main categories:

  1. Water quality and weather monitoring to characterize overall ecosystem health

  1. Biological monitoring of threatened species and characteristic estuarine and coastal communities.

  1. Habitat and land use change monitoring to track changes in the extent and distribution of different land cover classes, and

Over the past decades, the Reserve has gradually developed, tested, and expanded a suite of long-term monitoring indicators. Workshops of regional experts have helped define the best indicators of estuarine ecosystem health that can be affordably monitored by a small staff with a limited budget. With the help of these experts, the parameters currently being monitored have been prioritized (see Table 9.1). In the next decades, the Reserve is firmly committed to continuing all existing priority 1 programs. The priority 2 programs will be continued unless severe budget decreases result in loss of research staff. The priority 3 programs are likely to be continued, but might be dropped in case of budget decreases or lack of sufficient volunteer or staff expertise.

Each program has a defined, written protocol and is coordinated by one lead Reserve staff member, with a second staff member fully trained as an alternate. Some projects also have a volunteer lead who assists the staff lead or handles the majority of the coordination. For all twenty monitoring programs (Table 9.1), data are consistently collected and archived in databases that include clear metadata, and back-ups are regularly made and stored in two separate buildings. The databases are made available to anyone who requests them. In addition, the data from one program, the system-wide water and weather program, are archived and made available by the NERR Central Database Management Office.
Information about the monitoring programs and the trends they have revealed thus far is regularly presented by Reserve staff in presentations to a variety of audiences, ranging from applied resource managers to college classes to the general public. The monitoring programs are also highlighted on the Reserve webpage, and graphs and tables are updated annually to highlight recent trends.
In addition to continuing existing monitoring programs, the Reserve will explore the development of new programs, in partnership with other regional agencies or universities. There are a number of high priority programs, which will be developed if funding and staffing permit, they include eelgrass, benthic infauna, and fish assemblages.
B. ESNERR Objectives and Strategies
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