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Aramburu Island Ecological Enhancement Project

Created: 12/18/2010 - Updated: 7/10/2019

Photo attributed to Frank Shulenburg. Incorporated here under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement by licensor implied.


Aramburu Island is a 17-acre wildlife preserve in Richardson Bay. Like many other areas in the San Francisco Bay region, the island’s habitat has been altered by non-native and invasive plants and a slowly eroding shoreline. The Richardson Bay Audubon Center and Sanctuary and Marin County are partnering on a shoreline protection and habitat enhancement project in part to make the island more resilient to the impacts of climate change, especially sea level rise and increased coastal storm surges and erosion.


Aramburu Island is a 17-acre wildlife preserve managed by the Marin County Parks and Open Space in Richardson Bay. The island is now home to many birds displaced by the November 2007 Cosco-Busan oil tanker spill of over 58,000 gallons into San Francisco Bay. In addition, the island has been affected by non-native, invasive plants that have altered habitat and disrupted the food chain in Richardson Bay and the shorelines are slowly eroding. The Richardson Bay Audubon and Marin County are working to make island habitats suitable for birds and other wildlife through a habitat enhancement and shoreline protection project.


The main project goals, developed in cooperation with Richardson Bay Audubon, Marin County, and community members, are to:

1. Reduce erosion along the island’s eastern shoreline.   Instead of traditional shoreline hardening measures, the project uses soft engineering solutions such as sand and gravel nourishment to stabilize beaches and reduce erosion. 

2. Increase resilience to sea level rise.   The existing topography of the island consists of a sharp divide between upland areas and intertidal habitats, providing little natural resistance to storm surges and sea level rise. The proposed design would create a gradual transition zone to buffer wave action and allow for landward migration with sea level rise.

3. Enhance bird habitats.   Using beach nourishment and stabilization techniques (e.g., introducing large woody debris to increase shoreline complexity), the project will enhance roosting, foraging, and nesting habitats for shorebirds, waterbirds, and wading birds.

4. Enhance haul-out habitats for harbor seals.   Harbor seals have been historically associated with Aramburu Island. With increasing erosion and human disturbances, seals have deserted the area. The project will aim to improve haul-out site conditions to potentially re-attract harbor seals to the island.

5. Enhance rare salt marsh habitats.   The project proposes to reintroduce three annual native salt marsh plants, salt marsh bird’s-beak (Chloropyron maritimus ssp. palustre), salt marsh owl’s-clover (Castilleja ambigua), and smooth goldfields (Lasthenia glabrata ssp. glabrata) to the island to enhance high tidal marsh habitat.

6. Restore native vegetation.   Many areas of the island have been inundated by non-native and invasive plants. The project aims to replicate native shoreline vegetation types believed to be adapted to sea level rise, including lowland grassland and sedge meadows and seasonal wetlands.

The main project design objectives are to:

  1. Enhance existing tidal marsh, grassland, tidal flat, and shoreline habitats on the island to support diverse native vegetation, habitats, and species
  2. Increase the amount of sand and gravel spit areas for use by shorebirds
  3. Reduce erosion by employing sand/sediment renourishment efforts

Details on shoreline protection and enhancement techniques can be found in the Aramburu Island Shoreline Protection and Ecological Enhancement Project Draft Enhancement Plan

Outcomes and Conclusions

Along with Marin County, Richardson Bay Audubon is working to restore and improve the Aramburu Island habitat. Climate change is expected to cause sea level rise and increased frequency and severity of storms in the area. Erosion is already an issue for the island and many of the project’s goals directly address taking proactive measures to limit or eliminate erosion. In addition, the enhanced landscape of Aramburu Island would include sand and gravel beaches, tidal marshes, seasonal wetlands, and grasslands, which can support various fish and wildlife.


Information collected through publications. Last updated December 2010


Gregg, R. M. (2010). Aramburu Island Ecological Enhancement Project [Case study on a project of the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: (Last updated December 2010)

Project Contacts

Richardson Bay is considered one of the most pristine estuaries on the Pacific Coast in spite of its urbanized periphery, since it supports the second largest extant eelgrass bed in San Francisco Bay with plants that have high genetic diversity and sizable undisturbed intertidal habitats. It is a feeding and resting area for a large diversity of estuarine and pelagic birds, including over 40,000 diving ducks and other water birds. The bay’s associated marshes and littoral zones support a variety of animal and plant life.


Scale of Project: 
Community / Local
Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration
Target Climate Changes and Impacts: 
Habitat extent
Sea level rise
Climate Type: 
Type of Adaptation Action/Strategy: 
Natural Resource Management / Conservation
Incorporate future conditions into natural resources planning and policies
Enhance migration corridors and other connectivity measures
Effort Stage: 
In progress

Related Resources

Aramburu Island Shoreline Protection and Ecological Enhancement Project Draft Enhancement Plan

Photo attributed to Frank Schulenburg. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license. No endorsement implied. 

Sector Addressed: 
Conservation / Restoration