The phrase "wetland science and management" from the CCWG mission statement covers a wide range of research, implementation, collaboration and policy topics. In order to effectively strive towards our mission, CCWG must be involved in numerous different subjects. The work that CCWG does generally falls into the following research areas. We stay involved in these in many ways including leading projects, assisting in the projects of others, advising groups and hosting meetings.
CCWG staff have assisted local and regional partners in the development of climate mitigation and adaptation plans for the central coast. CCWG is focused on supporting adaptation planning through the collection of regional data and the coordination of adaptation planning among jurisdictions, regulatory authorities and resource managers. CCWG aims are to ensure that the wetland resource management is included as a goal when agencies begin to define infrastructure, resources and properties that are vulnerable to sea level rise and ensure that aquatic resource protection is accounted for as adaptation planning is carried out.
The CCWG Coastal Confluence Research Area aims to improve our regional understanding of the current ecological services these systems provide through the development of assessment tools for these wetlands, the compilation of standardized data sets, and an evaluation of habitat impacts of various activities. This research will provide the information necessary for resource managers to devise better strategies to modify and enhance these ecosystems for multiple objectives and species and evaluate the effectiveness of implemented actions.
The Lower Gabilan Watershed has been a focus area for staff at CCWG for well over a decade. This area encompasses a large range of landuse including: urban development in Salinas and Castroville; agriculture, particularly intensive row crops such as strawberries and leafy greens; natural wetlands and open space, which used to dominate the landscape but are now found only in fragments. This area is also home to some of the most polluted waterbodies in the state. Tembladero Slough, for example, is listed for 14 TMDL pollutants. We see a lot of potential for improving water quality, adding valuable habitat for wildlife, and providing community access to open space. This can be done without compromising the productivity of the region or the safety of the food grown here. For more information on how we are addressing improved coordination and the implementation of projects in the lower Gabilan, please see our projects.
Scattered throughout local and regional archives, historical information represents a wealth of untapped data for watershed management. By revealing how a watershed has changed over time, historical data can help us understand the underlying causes of contemporary conditions and help identify new strategies for environmental management. CCWG has done some preliminary Historical Ecology research for the Gabilan Watershed project and our current Coastal Lagoons project.
Pollution, particularly water pollution, is split into two categories: Point Source and Non-Point Source. Point sources are places like factories, where the cause of pollution is easy to track, and one entity can be responsible for control and cleanup. Non-point source is much trickier because it is the result of hundreds or thousands of small actions, like people putting pesticides on their lawn or farmers fertilizing their crops, collected over a large area such as a watershed. The individual person with the lawn is contributing such a tiny amount that to them it seems insignificant. However the cumulative effect can be large. To deal with these problems, Best Management Practices (BMPs) are put in place by farmers, municipalities and residence. CCWG has an ongoing interest and is actively pursuing funding to support the inventory and research of BMPs to address both urban and agricultural sources of non-point source pollution.
The Central Coast Wetlands Group utilizes the USEPA's Level 1-2-3 framework for wetland assessment.
Level 1: CCWG is active in the development of standard wetland mapping tools for the State of California through the development of a Wetland Status and Trends program. This program will track the extent and condition of wetlands using probabalistic methodologies over time. We are also pursuing resources to quantify and map agricultural and urban BMPs and riparian habitats on the Central Coast.
Level 2: CCWG is the Central Coast lead for the development and implementation of the California Rapid Assessment Method. Since 2002 we have assissted in the development of the riverine, estuarine, depressional and bar-build estuarine wetland modules. Addiitonally, CCWG is an active member of the state Level 2 Committee of the California Wetlands Monitoring Workgroups and holds multiple trainings annually in the methodology.
Level 3: CCWG has experience with Water Quality collecting, benthic invertebrate sampling, vegetation surveys, soil surveys, and was the California field team for the USEPA's 2011 National Wetland Condition Assessment which utilized both Level 2 and 3 methodologies.
Throughout the Salinas Valley much of the historical wetland habitat has been converted to rural and agricultural uses. Much of the runoff from these modified habitats is funneled into created, or highly altered, waterways that are essentially used as drainage ditches to remove excess water. This water often has very high nutrient and pesticide concentrations, which eventually enter the Monterey Bay Sanctuary. Some of the functions that are lost when watersheds are altered include filtration of pollutants, recharge of aquifers, flood storage capacity, and habitat for native flora and fauna. CCWG and partners have worked to restore important habitats throughout the Monterey Bay region for the past 2 decades. Our focus is the restoration and conservation of coastal wetlands, adjacent upland environments, and the natural functionality of watersheds. Currently we have active restoration projects in the Moro Cojo Slough Watershed and in north Salinas along Santa Rita Creek. We are also pursuing resources to enhance historic drainages with the goal of improving water quality working in harmony with agricultural practices.