Translating Sediment Research in San Francisco Bay NERR into Management Recommendations for Improving Marsh Habitat Resilience

China Camp Marsh Edge (photo credit: Matt Ferner)

In San Francisco Bay, salt marshes are under imminent threat from not only sea-level rise but also diminishing sediment supply. Suspended-sediment concentrations in the estuary are expected to continue decreasing due to trapping of sediment behind dams in the watershed and depletion of the erodible pool of sediment in the estuary, and ecological forecasting models show that most tidal marshes in the estuary will be drowned by 2100. Together, these threats put pressure on the coastal zone management community to better understand how and when sediment moves onto tidal marshes, and the processes that enhance its retention. The urgency of this need is accentuated by the vast amount of shoreline area in the estuary that is slated for restoration to tidal marsh habitat. Such restoration projects have widespread popular support, and in 2016 all nine counties surrounding the San Francisco Bay overwhelmingly voted to support passing a parcel tax of $20M annually for 25 years to support environmental restoration in the estuary. Informed and efficient use of these funds is critical and requires accurate understanding of the processes that determine how marshes receive and retain sediment.

This project continues a collaborative effort that started with the 2013 research project "Mud on the Move," focusing on data from a set of connected field studies based in San Francisco Bay NERR's China Camp State Park and the adjacent waters of San Pablo Bay. The project will address informational needs by translating and transferring recent scientific research to a variety of end users immersed in coastal management. The project aims to synthesize and translate the scientific results of the China Camp research for local end users as well as for the broader NERRS community, and extract and convey lessons learned that are applicable to improving marsh habitat resilience at San Francisco Bay NERR and other shoreline areas threatened by rapid climate change. The team plans to produce a citable management-focused publication summarizing basic principles, lessons learned, and management recommendations stemming from the research, and a webinar that transfers the project process and products to increase knowledge and connectivity across the NERRS.