Protecting and Restoring the Morro Bay Estuary.

Field Updates January 2020: Eelgrass Success and Creek Water Quality

Field Updates January 2020: Eelgrass Success and Creek Water Quality

This month, our field staff have been busy monitoring eelgrass success in the bay and water quality in the creeks that drain to the Morro Bay estuary.

Eelgrass monitoring and restoration success

If you spent time out on the bay in January, you might have noticed the really high tides. January 2020 had King Tides, meaning that the high tides were much higher than normal.

These extreme high tides are mirrored by extreme low tides. We always take advantage of these extreme low tides to monitor eelgrass, as we have a wider window than normal to conduct our monitoring.

Eelgrass restoration plot expansion

In January, we went out and checked past eelgrass restoration sites as well as scouted out locations for our 2020 eelgrass restoration efforts, which kicked off last week.

One site of the past restoration sites we visited is on the west side of the bay, across from State Park Marina. We planted this site in 2018.

Initially, we planted eelgrass in six locations, spaced a few meters apart, as you can see in the photograph above.

Initially, we planted eelgrass in six locations at this site. These one-meter-squared plots were planted a few meters apart as you can see in the photograph above.

Now, two years later, the eelgrass has expanded and formed a small bed.

The square in the photo is a one meter by one meter plot, showing one of the six locations we initially planted. This bed is now at least 20 meters long and about 3 meters wide.

The square in the photo is one meter by one meter and shows the location of one of the six plots we initially planted. This bed is now at least twenty meters long and about three meters wide.

This area, like many of our other restoration sites, had very little or no eelgrass present when we started these restoration efforts in 2017. Some locations had a few sparse eelgrass patches nearby, but nothing too large or substantial.

Eelgrass restoration efforts in 2020

2020 will be our fourth year of restoration using our current methods. Check out this blog post to see what a planting day looks like. We have planted eelgrass in sixteen locations over the past three years, and we hope to add seven new sites to the list this year, with additional plantings to be completed at existing sites.

Pardon the image quality – this particular field day was a classic Morro Bay field day – started out sunny and warm, and ended extremely foggy and cold. This is photo of one of our restoration sites that we have planted at three years in a row. This photo is looking at parts planted in2017 and 2018. As you can see, they have expanded together, now forming a pretty substantial eelgrass bed.

Pardon the image quality—this particular field day was a Morro Bay classic. It started out sunny and warm, and ended extremely foggy and cold. This is a photo of one of our restoration sites where we have planted eelgrass three years in a row. This photo shows areas that we planted in 2017 and 2018. As you can see, they have expanded and grown together, now forming a pretty substantial eelgrass bed.

Creek water quality

Creek flow and water quality monitoring were not as exciting this month as they had been the past few Januaries.

Though the water levels might not be as high as they were in the past few years, we are still out there collecting water quality data and tracking current stream conditions, including stream flow.

Blake, our monitoring technician, measures streamflow on Pennington Creek.

Blake, our Monitoring Technician, measures stream flow on Pennington Creek.

Rainfall totals were not what we had hoped for January. The San Luis Obispo County Rain Gage at Canet Road measured 0.39″ for January, bringing the total to 6.35″ inches since October 1st. Though the current forecast does look pretty dry, there is still hope for some rainfall in March.


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