Restoring a Salt Marsh

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The ecosystems in the area where you live may have been very different before your city was built there.  Conservationists are working to restore some of these ancient ecosystems in the San Francisco Bay area. Before the California Gold Rush, there was little human intervention in this place. The San Francisco Bay was once connected to a large salt marsh that contained many different and rare species of plants and animals.

Marshy areas like this one are unique; the plants that thrive in this environment filter the water that flows in and out of the tidal wetlands, making room for more animals that can live above and below the waterline. This ecosystem also protected the land beyond it from storm surges and flooding due to its makeup.

As humans inhabited the area in increasing numbers, this ecosystem underwent dramatic changes. The salt marshes were dredged to make room for roads and to elevate houses above the waterline, which made the location hostile to many of the plants and animals that lived there. This changed the water quality and made the shoreline more susceptible to flooding and tidal surges.

On October 31, 2015, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured a natural-color image (top) of the southern end of San Francisco Bay. Image: NASA.

On October 31, 2015, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured a natural-color image (top) of the southern end of San Francisco Bay. Image: NASA.

The project, known as the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project, aims to restore some of the salt marshes in the San Francisco Bay Area. The project is currently in its first decade of what conservationists hope will be a 50 year project. Approximately 15,000 acres of marshland has been given to the project for conservation and restoration purposes. The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is working with the California Department of Fish and Game, the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the US Geological Survey, and the California Coastal Conservancy.

Conservationists are working to reduce pollution in some of the existing waterways, as well as restore a natural balance between the bodies of water that have been disconnected from the San Francisco Bay for many years. Already they have seen marine life increase, plant life diversity thriving, and a doubling of the number of birds spotted in the area.

More: From Salt Production to Salt Marsh, NASA

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