Coastal Confluence Research

Development of a Bar-Built Estuary Monitoring and Resource Management Prioritization Tool for Califonria State Parks, 2014-2017; USEPA Region 9

Bar-built estuaries (BBEs) are unique coastal wetlands that form at the mouths of coastal watersheds and provide a great diversity of habitat and ecosystem services. These important coastal wetlands provide critical habitat for many commercially important and endangered species and make up 51% of all coastal confluences in California. With a growing population, often centered on coastal confluences, these habitats experience varying degrees of alteration. Future alterations, increasing demand for freshwater and climate or sea level change further threatens BBEs and the services they provide. The diversity and dynamics of ecological services, and how they are affected by anthropogenic alteration is poorly understood. Understanding these details is necessary to ensure the long-term health and productivity of these coastal ecosystems. California State Parks (CSP) manages nearly half of California’s BBEs. Thus, by enhancing the capacity of State Parks to assess and manage wetlands in a cost-effective manner we will provide a major step towards increasing and preserving the quantity and quality of California’s wetlands. We propose to establish a wetland habitat restoration and management prioritization tool. We will create a comprehensive georeferenced database of BBE resources managed by CSP. We will combine these data with estuary water elevation, CRAM assessments and watershed stressor data to link watershed stress and local condition. This watershed approach will inform how watershed and/or local actions will increase habitat function within BBEs, and coupled with historical analyses will provide a valuable management prioritization framework to direct management of wetlands by CSP.

 

Coastal Confluence Inventory, 2013-2014; The Nature Conservancy

CCWG has been working over the past three years on compiling information, developing rapid assessment tools, and developing a geo-database for bar-built estuaries in California. In that capacity, the CCWG research group worked closely with The Nature Conservancy, the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI), and the Southern California Coastal Water Resources Project (SCCWRP) to compare approaches and discuss existing geo-databases for California’s estuaries and other coastal confluences.

The Nature Conservancy is engaged with partners to conduct a coast-wide assessment of the nursery function of West Coast estuaries. As a first step in that process, TNC is supporting the development of an authoritative geo-database of West Coast estuaries that can be used for this nursery assessment, as well as for other uses (eg. compiling rapid assessment data). TNC hired CCWG to work with key partners in California to assemble the California portion of the authoritative geo-database of coastal confluences on the West Coast. This work was done in consultation with partners at the Pacific Marine and Estuarine Habitat Partnership (PMEP) who are involved in the coast-wide nursery assessment.

 

Assessment of San Mateo County Bar-built Estuaries, 2014-2016; USFWS Local Coastal Program Partnership

This project will use CCWG-developed methods to assess bar-built estuary and associated watershed conditions and provide the Coastal Program with a prioritization regime to direct on-the-ground efforts to improve habitat conditions and species services for the bar-built estuaries and their associated watersheds within the San Mateo coast focus area of the San Francisco Area Coastal Program. Connecting marine, freshwater and terrestrial ecosystems, bar-built estuaries are complex and dynamic systems that provide a great diversity of habitat and ecosystem services. With a growing population, often centered on coastal confluences, these habitats experience varying degrees of alteration. Future alterations, increasing demand for freshwater and climate and sea level change all further threaten these habitats and the services they provide. Being at the bottom of watersheds bar-built estuaries accumulate impacts from upstream stressors creating both a management challenge and a monitoring opportunity. Results of this project will provide the Service with summary statistics, and other statistical results to help prioritize and focus management within this region to maximize benefit to local habitat value, species services, and overall landscape condition.

 

Scott Creek Bridge Replacement, 2014; ESA/PWA

CCWG will provide expertise on wetlands to the resource agencies to help them balance multiple species, physical and ecological processes and to evaluate the tradeoffs between various options for the bridge replacement. This will be accomplished by attending at presenting data at multiple TAC meetings and workshops over the course of the project. The end goal is to identify a bridge replacement and restoration design for Scott Creek lagoon.

 

Elkhorn Slough Tidal Marsh Restoration Project, 2014; ESA/PWA

Ross Clark is collaborating with Dr. Ivano Aiello of MLML as senior technical advisors to a large marsh restoration project in Elkhorn Slough being conducted by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation. Their general role includes participation on conference calls and meetings, review of current scientific literature, review of draft document sections, and technical advice on marsh restoration alternatives as resources allow.

 

BBE Water Level Monitoring Collaboration, ongoing


CCWG is collaborating with John Largier at Bodega Marine Lab and David Jacobs at UCLA to deploy temperature/depth loggers at bar-built estuaries on the north, central and south coast. These data are being collected to build a log-term data set on BBE water levels and breaching events.  In some cases the logger data is being combined with marsh plain elevation surveys to estimate marsh plain inundation depth and periodicity.