|California Black Rail, a state threatened species, relies on tidal marsh habitat. Photo © Peter Latourrette www.birdphotography.com|
While millions of public and private dollars have been spent on wetland restoration in San Franciso Bay, very few restoration actions have been followed with in-depth scientific monitoring.Yet restoration trajectories--complex changes over time that begin when a levee is breached to restore tidal action--vary widely. Factors that range from site elevation and tide regime to surrounding land- use characteristics affect the outcome. Understanding these variables is a requisite for knowing the extent to which restoration actually benefits wildlife or provides ecosystem services.
Since 2003, PRBO and other researchers have been involved in a $3.7 million research project that aims to provide valuable new data about restoration outcomes and trajectories. The Integrated Regional Wetland Monitoring (IRWM) Pilot Project is a CALFED-funded interdisciplinary research effort examining wetland restoration in San Pablo Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. By intensively studying six sites in this region, the IRWM Pilot Project seeks to evaluate how efforts to restore a wetland affect ecosystem processes at different scales. Another goal is to refine methods that can be incorporated into effective long-term monitoring programs.
Research teams are monitoring the parameters that reflect various stages in the evolution of a wetland in restoration. Analyses of sites build upon field-based measurements and also employ aerial photos and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data layers. Phase 2 of the project, if funded by CALFED, will involve developing models and indicators for predicting restoration outcomes across the North Bay and Delta.
Along with PRBO, seven other institutions including SF State University and Wetlands and Water Resources participate in the IRWM Pilot Project. More information is available at www.irwm.org.