Vibrant Coastal Dunes in Cardiff-by-the-Sea

The Innovative Cardiff Living Shoreline Provides Dunes for Flood Protection and Endangered Species

The Cardiff Living Shoreline project is an exciting habitat enhancement, recently completed at Cardiff State Beach in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California. Our efforts focus on the creation and ongoing care of a healthy native dune habitat for endangered species, such as the Western Snowy Plover – a small shorebird that frequently nests, feeds, and rests on this beach. Along with providing an optimal habitat for endangered plant, bird and reptile species, our work gives everyone the chance to experience an increasingly rare coastal dune habitat.

Western Snowy Plover

Creation of the Cardiff Living Shoreline transformed a once flat portion of the beach into native dunes. Excess sands were transferred from the San Elijo Lagoon inlet to the area along South Coast Highway 101 and vegetated with native plants. These colorful blooms include beach sand verbena (Ambronia umbellata) and beach primrose (Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia) – See the plant guide. The presence of native vegetation is vital in stabilizing the dunes by anchoring the sands from withering winds and storm surges.

Above: Hummocks and contours now create a sand dune in an area once flat.

Nature Collective community volunteers dig in and help with restoration efforts.

With rising sea levels, low-lying coastal areas are prone to flooding — this includes South Coast Highway 101. The sand dunes provide a natural buffer between the ocean and highway, which contributes to the primary goal of the project to protect the highway from sea level rise.

Above: Native plants were planted along the dunes, including beach sun cup, Nuttall’s lotus, beach sand verbena, coast woolly heads, red sand verbena and beach bur-sage.

Nuttall’s lotus in bloom April 2019 on our established Seaside Dune just south of the current project.

Cardiff Beach Living Shoreline is a project led by the State Coastal Conservancy and the City of Encinitas. The City partners with San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy, California Department of Parks & Recreation, UC Los Angeles, Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, and US Fish & Wildlife Service.

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