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.