Research at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

A Unique Place for Scientific Research

The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Location: The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve (BCER) is a state owned and managed Ecological Reserve made up of 1400 acres of protected wetland and upland open space off the coast of Huntington Beach, CA.  Bolsa Chica has a long history, and conservation of habitats began in the late 1970’s with the designation of 300 original acres as an Ecological Reserve.  In 2005 the lower bench of the Mesa was acquired by the state, and a significant wetland restoration project was completed in 2006 with the opening of a tidal inlet which restored full and muted tidal basins on what had been 50 year old oil fields.  There are 5 miles of public trails, but most of the Reserve’s acreage is protected for wildlife use and is closed to the public.  BCER’s coastal wetlands are one of the last remaining 10% of wetlands remaining in California.  A critical nesting site, BCER harbors 23 listed species and is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

Habitats: There are 3 main habitats at Bolsa Chica.  Saltwater estuary, Coastal Sage Scrub with grassland, and Coastal Strand.  There are also some smaller freshwater and brackish water habitats.  Each of these habitats contain sensitive species, and research potential.  The pending impacts of sea-level rise and climate change on these habitats and migration are of considerable concern and are not yet fully understood.  

Wildlife and plant highlight: There are over 230 bird species which can be found at Bolsa Chica.  Migrating birds on the Pacific Flyway stop to rest and breed during the winter and spring/summer seasons.  As a wetland with tidal influence, there are more than 50 different species of fish and other marine life who inhabit the bays and inlets.  BCER is an especially important breeding site for CA Least Terns, Ridgway’s Rails, and Western Snowy Plovers in the summer. The upland and dune area are home to listed plant species.  BCLT’s upland native plant habitat restoration project is currently in its 25th year.

Call for Research Proposals

The Bolsa Chica Land Trust has initiated a new research program, inviting academic researchers to explore the many possibilities for investigative studies at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Limited funding will be made available to support selected studies. The reserve manager has listed many areas of research interest, and proposals at all levels of research (census, observational, associational, and experimental) are welcome.

The Bolsa Chica Land Trust Partnership

The Bolsa Chica Land Trust was founded in 1992 to protect all the uplands and lowlands of Bolsa Chica from development. The mission of the Land Trust is the acquisition, preservation, and restoration of all of Bolsa Chica and the education of the public to its natural wonders and cultural significance. We offer volunteering opportunities through our restoration and education programs and outreach to the public through free public tours, educational materials, and events.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife manages the entire Ecological Reserve. The Bolsa Chica Steering Committee is comprised of State and Federal agencies that oversee the lowland (wetland) restoration area.

The Bolsa Chica Land Trust has been conducting community-based habitat restoration of Coastal Sage Scrub and grassland habitats up on the lower mesa since 1996 with oversight and permission from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. BCLT is also partnering with the Bolsa Chica Steering Committee on a study for the lowland project to improve its functionality and sustainability. BCLT partners with CDFW on many other biological and public access/education projects and programs to ensure the health and wellbeing of the Reserve.

All Scientific research at BCER must be pre-approved by CDFW.

X