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Taking Care of the Reserve

SSNERR_TomsCreek_BeaverSurveys.jpgEstuaries are an essential component of thriving coastal environments and economies—they host migrating birds and local wildlife, support fisheries by providing clean water and nursery grounds for marine life, and protect communities from flooding. Continuous work is needed to protect and maintain these valuable resources.

South Slough Reserve staff and volunteers act as stewards, helping maintain the quality of the Reserve by managing threats to the ecosystem, like invasive species and trash, and implementing projects to restore the land and sustain it for years to come. We also count on visitors to help us care for the Reserve by removing trash and helping to alert staff when there is a concern.

Taking care of the Reserve involves many volunteers with different backgrounds. On the second Saturday of every month, South Slough Reserve holds a hands-on Second Saturday Steward event. The event, which runs from 10am - noon, is a great way to visit different parts of the Reserve, meet new people, and help care for essential lands and waters. 

Sign up to get monthly reminders of Second Saturday Steward events or visit our volunteer page to learn about more opportunities.

Restoration Projects

In Oregon, it is estimated that 60% of tidal marshes and 95% of tidal forested swamps have been lost (see scientific study). At South Slough Reserve, wetlands were previously pasture and forested stands were historically logged and replanted. These activities have impacted habitat and ecosystem diversity, but also given us an opportunity to explore restoration strategies and increase learning in the scientific community. Since the mid 1990's the Reserve has restored over 55 acres, but this is just the beginning. 

Currently, the Reserve is in the process of restoring the Wasson Creek Watershed, a 525-acre area in the southern portion of the Reserve that is comprised of 503 acres of forests and about 22 acres of wetlands and streams. The Wasson Creek Watershed Restoration Project is a multiphase effort that is supporting healthy, diverse, and resilient ecosystems in South Slough Reserve’s Wasson Creek Watershed from the ridgetop to the estuary.

In addition to the Wasson Creek Watershed Restoration Project, the Reserve is working to restore additional wetlands and forests in the coming years. Here are just some of our efforts.

  • Increasing Swamp Habitat Around Wasson Creek. Tidal forested swamps were once abundant along the Oregon coast prior to European settlement, but were cleared for timber development. These wetlands are crucial habitats for wildlife, particularly salmon. South Slough Reserve's tidal swamps are notably marked by the presence of Sitka spruce. Reserve staff and collaborators are researching South Slough's existing tidal forested swamps, using technology like aerial imagery and infrared cameras to look at tree canopy health, and working to expand this import habitat as part of the Wasson Creek Restoration work.
  • Eelgrass Restoration and Mapping. Eelgrass meadows at South Slough Reserve have declined since 2016. The Reserve is investigating causes of the decline, experimenting with restoration methods, and testing the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to map eelgrass in the estuary. Monitoring data is reported to SeagrassNet, a global seagrass monitoring program. Learn more about the importance of eelgrass.
  • Restoring the Winchester Tidelands. South Slough Reserve staff and advisory groups have been restoring degraded wetlands over the past 30-years, primarily as part of the Winchester Tidelands Restoration Project efforts. These 55 acres of restored wetlands play a critical role rearing and serving as habitat for, birds, fish, and other wildlife. Learn more.
  • Experimenting with Restoration Methods at Kunz Marsh. In the past, Kunz Marsh was diked to support cropland and pasture. This caused the surface of the marsh to sink, impacting coastal marsh plants' ability to establish. Reserve staff conducted multiple experiments to test the best method for restoring the marshes elevation to encourage plants and animals to colonize and allowing tidal channel development. Learn more.
  • Relocating Anderson Creek. In the 1900s, Anderson Creek was diverted into ditches, which disconnected the floodplain and converted wetlands to farmlands. These alterations resulted in an abundance of exotic plants and animals, limited resources for wildlife, little flood protection and poor fish habitat. In the early 2000's Reserve staff and collaborators re-introduced complexity to both the stream and the wetland resulting in a healthy ecosystem which now supports populations of beaver, birds, and elk. Learn more​.​​

  • Supporting Thriving Forests. Around 63% of the Reserve is occupied by forests, all of which were harvested for timber prior to Reserve management. Much of this re-growth forest is dense and structurally simple, with limited benefits for wildlife. Densely packed trees increase wildfire risk. The Reserve is working on a series of projects that will restore the parts of the forest in greatest need of management. The projects aim to protect some of our oldest stands, while creating an opportunity for young trees to prosper. Activities aim to promote old growth forest conditions, reduce risk of uncontrollable wildfires, and improve habitat for the marbled murrelet, and endangered bird.
  • Recovering the Western Lily. The western lily, Lilium occidentale, is listed as an endangered species in Oregon and the United States. The Reserve has one of the largest known populations of western lilies; however, their habitat has been impacted by previous logging activity. The Reserve is enhancing  habitat by reducing tree and shrub density, consequently restoring the groundwater and sunlight conditions needed for healthy lilies. ​Learn more​.​​​

Invasive Species

Invasive plants and animals threaten the Reserve ecosystem, crowding out and reducing the diversity of native wildlife and impacting water and soil quality. Reserve staff and volunteers track invasive species and work to reduce their impacts. The Reserve is developing a South Slough Reserve Invasive Species Management Plan to better guide management efforts.

Help us track invasive species in the Reserve. Contact us if you see any new invasive plants and animals at the Reserve. You can also volunteer to help track and remove invasive species.

 Native species can sometimes be mistaken for invasive ones--do not attempt to remove a plant or wildlife without authorization.

Invasive Plant Reference Guide