Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve

Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve
Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve / Photo by Christopher Woodcock

Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve protects a critically important Southern California estuary which supports many sensitive plant and animal species. The site includes extensive wetland and channel habitats along with some uplands. It lies adjacent to a sandy beach, subtidal rocky reef, and kelp beds. The reserve provides habitat for migratory waterfowl as well as endangered plants and animals such as the salt marsh bird’s-beak, light-footed clapper rail, and Belding’s savannah sparrow. The marsh serves as an important regional nursery for halibut and other marine and estuarine fish. As part of the Ash Avenue Restoration Project, center, teaching amphitheater, and nature trail have been provided an on-site interpretative to enhance public outreach at Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park.

Field Courses

University courses, including plant ecology, environmental studies, marine biology, and a research mentorship program.

Bird Studies

Ongoing monthly bird surveys provide census data, information on habitat-use and species-density changes.

Habitat Restoration

Extensive marsh restoration at Carpinteria Salt Marsh nature park; removal of invasive exotic plants.

Public Outreach

Class visits from local elementary/secondary schools; field trips through such local organizations as Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History; interpretive panels along nature trail in nature park; weekly docent-led tours.

Selected Research

  • NSF-funded, long-term investigation of watersheds and nearshore marine environments; new EPA-funded wetland toxicity center.
  • Impacts to estuary from runoff/effluents; nutrient dynamics in estaurine ecosystem; long-term vegetation sampling in relationship to soil texture, salinity, tidal inundation, and competition or facilitation among species.

Special Research of National Significance

Andrew J. Brooks, Director
Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve
c/o Marine Science Institute
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve website

Santa Barbara County, west of the city of Carpinteria; 32 km (20 mi.) east of Santa Barbara campus.

Interpretative area, teaching amphitheater, and nature trail at Carpinteria Salt Marsh Nature Park on Ash Avenue; some facilities available at UCSB; no on-site research or housing facilities.

The reserve bibliography includes citations of journal articles, books, theses, art, and other works published about or based on activities conducted at the reserve.

Plant List
Bibliography of marsh-based inventories/research; historic/current aerial photos; species lists; synoptic collections; geographic information system (GIS); marsh management plan w/extensive site information; selected databases at website.

Reserve manager/NRS office on Santa Barbara campus; no on-site personnel.

49 hectares (120 acres) owned by UC; 93 hectares (230 acres) total habitat area

1 m below mean sea level to 3 m above mean sea level (-3 to 10 ft.)

38 cm (15 in.) per year

August maximum: 24 ºC (75 ºF)
January minimum: 6 ºC (42 ºF)
Dendra Weather Data

Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve / Photo by Christopher Woodcock
marsh recovery
Logs and debris inundated the channels at Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve after the January 2018 storm and mudslide. Image credit: Jessie Ward O’Sullivan
storm flooding
Storms once buried Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve in beach sand, revealing how vulnerable coastal communities may be to storm flooding. Image credit: University of California