Pecten Reef Habitat Restoration & Enhancement

Expanding restoration efforts in Aliso Creek watershed.


Funded by the California State Coastal Conservancy and the Henry W. & Ellen R Warne Family Endowment Fund

Current Status: In Progress | Start Date: January 2018 | Expected Completion: 2021 | Project Lead: Josie Bennett

The Pecten Reef Habitat Restoration Project includes a portion of Aliso Creek, one of the major streams in Orange County, running for 19.7 miles from the Santa Ana Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. Though historical land use was primarily cattle and sheep ranching, this watershed has been almost completely developed over the past 40 years into an urban area comprising seven cities. The riparian corridor associated with Aliso Creek is a key movement area for wildlife.

This project consists of 26 acres of wetland, riparian, riparian-transitional and upland habitat that will be restored through the removal of invasive species and the installation of container plants, cuttings and seed of native plant species. The project area is contiguous with habitat currently being restored as part of LCF’s ongoing watershed-wide habitat restoration work and will further enhance those efforts by increasing native habitat area, creating buffers around riparian areas, and reducing contaminated runoff into the stream from the surrounding urbanized areas.

This project is wholly contained within Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, which permanently protects over 4,000 acres of the lower Aliso Creek watershed. The specific area of the project, known as Pecten Reef, is located near the corner of Laguna Hills Drive and Moulton Parkway. This area is adjacent to the headquarters of the historic Moulton ranching operation and therefore was even more heavily impacted by grazing activities than other parts of the watershed.

This area is home to the largest and best-preserved outcrop of its namesake, a vital marine fossil formation known as the Pecten Reef, much of which has been damaged, destroyed or removed from public access by development in other places where it is exposed. Due to the destruction of the vegetation through historic sheep grazing and consequent neglect, Pecten Hill remains barren of native cover, leaving its sensitive paleontological resources vulnerable to vandalism and theft.

Pond turtles, Bell’s vireo and several other threatened, endangered and rare species call this area home.