Cardiff-by-the-Sea, San Diego, CA

33.012612, -117.278833

San Elijo Lagoon - Coastal Watershed Restoration

SeaTrees has partnered with local San Diego nonprofit, The Nature Collective, to support the restoration of a portion of the watershed in Cardiff California in the West Basin of San Elijo Lagoon Ecological Reserve near the inlet. This project is one of the most extensive wetland restorations in California. Together, we are restoring 15k sq-ft of salt marsh.

Without thriving native plant species, our lands – and their ecosystems – aren’t truly healthy.

About the Project

This project is one of the most extensive wetland restorations in California. Restoration work is crucial to eliminate and manage invasive plant species and reintroduce native species to the lagoon. This salt marsh serves as vital habitat for the federally listed Belding’s savannah sparrow, along with a variety of other avian and arthropod species.

The allocated funding will be utilized for eradicating invasive plants, procuring and planting native species, and carrying out the necessary maintenance, monitoring, and reporting activities for habitat restoration projects over a span of two years.

By enhancing the plant diversity, we will encourage the flourishing of wildlife species like the Wandering Skipper butterfly, which relies exclusively on Saltgrass as its host plant, as well as the Belding’s savannah sparrow, which exclusively nests in pickleweed.

native restoration

The Return of Eelgrass

A notable attribute of this site is the natural return of eelgrass which during the right season, has returned to various spots along the lagoon. Additionally, the lagoon has also become a thriving habitat for octopuses, sea hares, and even seals, showing the diversity that can return through native restoration efforts.

Project partner

Nature Collective

Learn More About the Nature Collective

Nature Collective ecologists will conduct wildlife surveys pre and post restoration, these will include avian surveys and pollinator transect surveys to asses species diversity and abundance.

Nature Collective uses 25-meter point-intercept transects in conjunction with 2-meter belt transects to evaluate native and non-native foliar cover, shrub cover, and plant species richness

Project Goals and Monitoring

The joint efforts of SeaTrees and Nature Collective focus on maintaining the health of the lagoon's lands and waters by improving tidal circulation, and undertaking vital restoration work to preserve salt flats as crucial habitats for various animal species.

Modern infrastructure had nearly halted this natural process, but through initiatives such as constructing wider bridge spans and enhancing tidal channels, tidal flow is now able to reach farther and penetrate deeper into San Elijo Lagoon, rejuvenating its ecological functions. Without these restoration efforts, these critical habitats would have been lost, but now they have been restored and enhanced to withstand sea level rise.

Project Success

One of the main results of the increase tidal prism brought about by the lagoon restoration, is an increase in plant and animal diversity as ocean water mixes with freshwater inputs from the east creating a salinity gradient.

The project will take advantage of this salinity gradient to plant species uniquely adapted to different levels of soil and water salinity.


Sustainable Development

This project provides long-term employment for the local community. This in turn drives other Sustainable Development benefits.

* Thanks to the support of our generous brand partners, this project has been fully funded. If you'd like to support one of our other great projects, send an email to and let us know what lights you up the most!