February 13, 2021
In ecological terms, the importance of healthy wetlands in the Bay Area cannot be overstated. Wetlands are key to ensuring water quality, flood protection, and shoreline erosion control. Blumenfeld underscored the usefulness of wetlands in combating the effects of climate change.
“Wetlands present us with a huge opportunity to buffer the impacts [of climate change], acting like a sponge. They allow us to deal with the impacts of sea-level rise in a natural way that concrete and other barriers are not going to be able to do,” Blumenfeld said.
The State of Wetlands in the San Francisco Bay Area by Hudson Fox
Lewis explained the significance of acting quickly to combat the effects of climate change.
“Tidal marshes can actually adjust to changes in sea level if they don’t happen too quickly,” Lewis said. “This is because they accrete sediment; they hold sediment from the water and they can increase or lower winds when the sea level rises, which has happened slowly. If it happens quickly, then the sea level would be too high for new tidal marshes to form.”
Lewis expressed optimism about the prospects of the tidal marshes’ restoration, but he did acknowledge that action would need to be taken in the near future.
“Scientists tell us that we need to start revegetating tidal marshes in this decade before sea-level rise gets too high too fast and makes it more difficult. Those marshes may be able to stay ahead of sea-level rise,” Lewis said. “Now, we still need to combat the amount of climate change, and the emission of greenhouse gases, but we can’t wait to start doing this adaptation and tidal marsh restoration if we want it to work.”
Despite a clear need for funds and a lack of support from the federal government for many years, Blumenfeld noted that conservation groups have been doing their part to attempt to preserve the wetlands in and surrounding the San Francisco Bay.
“There’s been incredible efforts, since 1998, that have put back in place about 20,000 acres of wetland in and around the San Francisco Bay, but still we have a goal of getting to 100,000 acres of restored wetlands,” Blumenfeld said.
Even with the formidable efforts of these conservation groups, Blumenfeld emphasized the need for funding from the federal government to help with research on wetlands.
Blumenfeld said, “We really need to understand how these natural systems can help us. The funding that the bill would provide for the EPA is critical to moving that work forward.”