River Mouths, Brakish and Estuarine Coastal Wetlands
The most conspicuous plants of the riparian corridor are the trees which extend from the river mouth inland (Warner and Hendrix 1984, Smith 1980, Barbour et al. 1993). North from the Carmel River, much of the riparian habitat around sanctuary river mouths was cut down many decades ago. For example, the mouth of the Salinas River was surrounded by extensive riparian forest 150 years ago, when the first Coast and Geodetic Survey maps were made (Gordon 1996, Margolin 1978, Blackburn and Anderson 1993). There are now a handful of isolated willow trees. On the other hand, hundreds of tree cuttings and saplings were planted along the southern river bank this year and thousands more will be planted to restore some of the riparian forest along the Salinas River Wildlife Area. The recovery of riparian forest along Redwood Creek at Muir Beach (just north of the MBNMS) is the best model for success at other river mouths. Here the red alders flourished with the removal of intensive cattle grazing which prevented tree recruitment. The recovered corridor is wide, high, and full of wildlife (Phil Williams and Associates 1993).
Like the riparian corridors, marsh habitats have been dramatically reduced in size and grossly modified by ditching and diking wet corridors (Lydon 1985, Gordon 1996, California Coastal Commission 1994). At the river mouths, the low marsh communities grade from plants with high tolerance to salt water, such as pickleweed, to those with much less tolerance, e.g. rushes and sedges. As a result of ditching, drying and land use conversion of areas which were formerly freshwater marshes feeding into river mouths, there is now very low water retention along these wet corridors, and therefore lower freshwater input to the river mouths (Watershed Institute 1995, 1996).
Section III. Elkhorn Slough