Research Projects


The Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy (HBWC) is pleased to announce it has received a $50,000 grant from the Henry W. & Ellen R. Warne Family Endowment Fund of the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF). This grant will support the Salt Marsh Bird's Beak (Chloropyron maritimum subsp. maritimum) Project on our Magnolia Marsh by extending our previously successful planting of this endangered species in 2015 and funded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The HWBC is very proud that our Magnolia Marsh is one of only eight areas in California where this endangered species of plant is growing.

Bird's Beak in our Wetlands at HBWC

The HBWC will be collaborating with Eric Zahn (Principle Restoration Ecologist of Tidal Influence to achieve two goals. First, we will continue growing of Bird's Beak in the Magnolia Marsh. Next, we will work to define two new areas north and south of the existing plants as we expand their growth. We will also be identifying key attributes which contributed to our previously successful plantings by examining soil conditions, watering, moisture levels, surrounding plant species and elevations of our existing plantings to ensure a success under this Project. The HBWC will also be working with teachers and students from Edison High School as they look at these key attributes and develop hypothesis which will be used in the students AP Biology papers due at the end of the 2018 school year. The papers will look at the key attributes listed above to assist the HBWC and Tidal Influences in their overall plans for a successful planting of Bird's Beak.

From John Villa - Executive Director, Huntington Beach Wetlands Conservancy: "This grant from the Henry W. & Ellen R. Warne Family Endowment Fund of the Orange County Community Foundation will greatly assist the HBWC in meeting its mission to Acquire, Restore and Preserve the 180 Acres of the Historical Huntington Beach Wetlands. A direct correlation of our mission is to protect and preserve the various species of animals and plants we see in our marshes with special attention to the identified endangered species of birds and plants. The public is always invited to tour our marshes and enjoy our success."
From Eric Zahn – Principal Restoration Ecologist, Tidal Influence: "With so few places left in existence where this endangered plant can live, the Huntington Beach Wetlands offer an incredible opportunity to conserve a population of this species. This is all made possible through strong partnerships between the landowner, funders, and resource agencies."

The Warne Family Endowment Fund awards annual grants through a competitive application and review process to protect and promote the protection of endangered species. Orange County is home to over 30 endangered species and encompasses many ecosystems that are critical to the survival of these species. Grants are awarded to improve the health and resilience of critical coastal endangered species ecosystems, as well as sustain or increase coastal endangered species populations in Orange County.

Growing Milkweed

The Conservancy has formed a partnership with the Huntington Beach Tree Society for the propagation and dissemination of native milkweed. Milkweed plants, essential for the reproduction of monarch butterflies, will be grown in our native plant nursery by Tree Society volunteers and will be made available to local residents.
Narrow-leaf Milkweed, blooms and leaves.

Studying Cordgrass with Relation to Rising Sea Levels

The HBWC is host to many research projects conducted by graduate students from local universities. Presently underway is a project measuring the effects of sea-level rise on marsh vegetation (cordgrass). It's located in Talbert Marsh. This project is being conducted by a graduate student from Cal State Long Beach.

Experimental SLR Treatment Box, viewed from the top
Experimental SLR Treatment Box, not visible from the side

Another project by students from CSULB involves seining to assess the availability of food sources for the least tern colony at the mouth of the Santa Ana River.

Endangered Salt Marsh Bird's Beak in Magnolia Marsh

by Lena Hayashi

Did you know the Salt Marsh Bird's Beak, Chloropyron maritimum subsp. Maritimum (below middle), is an endangered plant species currently found in only 7 estuarine systems in the United States?

The USFWS Recovery Plan has acquired funding to pursue the outplanting of a new population of this plant in our Huntington Beach wetlands!

"The purpose of this project is to collect seeds from a thriving population in Upper Newport Bay, bank a portion of those seeds, and outplant the remainder of the seeds at a location where the plant currently does not exist with the intention of establishing a new population of Chloropyron maritimum subsp. maritimum. If successfully established in an 8th location the plant could be recommended for delisting from the federally endangered list," wrote Eric Zahn, Principal Restoration Ecologist of Tidal Influence, LLC.

Eric along with Tia Blair and Alene Spindel (above right) began laying out the plots today, October 28, in hopes of outplanting the seeds between November 1st and November 15th to coordinate with the hoped for El Nino rains. When done, they will have 12 clusters of quadrants (above left) seeded with 100 seeds each. Each quadrant will be treated a little differently in hopes of finding the best conditions for growth of the plant.

Monitoring will continue through March 2017. Stop by the Huntington Beach Wetlands and Wildlife Care Center during open hours to observe the progress!
Read the work plan for this project on the Salt Marsh's Bird's Beak here.

Update: September 2017 - The USFWS Recovery Plan to plant Bird's Beak in our Magnolia Marsh has been a success. We have seen a number of Bird's Beak (see photos) showing up in the plots and hope to see more after the next rainy season.

Bird's Beak taking hold in our Wetlands at HBWC
Bird's Beak taking hold in our Wetlands at HBWC
Bird's Beak taking hold in our Wetlands at HBWC