Testing the Effect of Wetlands on Delta Water Quality and Food Availability




The State of California has proposed restoring up to 100,000 acres of wetland habitat in the San Francisco Bay Delta ecosystem as part of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan. The plan has a massive scope, with an estimated implementation cost of $27 billion occurring over decades. Yet, many potentially positive outcomes carry a high degree of scientific uncertainty.

For example, wetlands are believed to be local sources of organic matter that serve as food for organisms. They are also thought to reduce nutrient pollution, mitigating the potential for harmful effects. Dr. Alexander Parker’s project brings together the CSU with state and federal natural resource agencies to test these hypotheses. Water quality data is collected from fixed sensors and during sampling cruises, characterizing the cycles of organic matter production and biological uptake of nutrients in the Liberty Island/Cache Slough Complex in the Delta.

“The last several years of drought have raised both awareness and the urgency to invest in modernizing how water resources are managed," says Dr. Parker, assistant professor of oceanography. "It is encouraging to see that California is approaching decision-making based on the best available science.”

In addition to its immediate application to California, this project will inform estuary management decisions globally. It is funded by the State and Federal Contractors Water Agency. Other partners include San Francisco State University and the U.S. Geological Survey.