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The Historical Ecology of the Tijuana Estuary & River Valley (Restore America's Estuaries 2018 Conference Presentation).2018.
This talk was given at the 2018 Restore America's Estuary Conference in Long Beach, CA as part of a special session titled "Restoration Perspectives from the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve." It is based on information from the Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation, a report published in 2017.
Though many areas of the binational Tijuana River watershed remain relatively undeveloped, land and water use changes over the past 200 years have resulted in significant ecological impacts, particularly in the more urbanized areas of the lower watershed. Drawing upon a diverse set of historical data, we reconstructed the ecological and hydrogeomorphic conditions of the lower Tijuana River valley prior to major Euro-American modification (ca. 1850) and documented major changes in habitat distribution and physical processes over this time. The river corridor, which was historically dominated by riparian scrub, today instead supports dense stands of riparian forest. The valley bottom surrounding the river corridor, which historically supported extensive seasonal wetlands, has largely been converted to drier habitat types and agricultural uses. The estuary, which historically supported large expanses of salt marsh and mudflat as well as seasonally dry salt flats, has retained much of its former extent and character, but has been altered by increased sediment input and other factors. The new information about the historical landscape presented here is relevant to a number of issues scientists and managers are dealing with today, including the conservation of endangered species, the fate of the valley’s riparian habitats after the recent invasion of invasive shot-hole borer beetles, and the effects on groundwater levels on native plant communities. We will also draw from other historical ecology studies conducted in Southern California to illustrate how the information about the past has been utilized to improve the functioning and resilience of nearby coastal ecosystems.
Presentation recording: available here.
Peninsula Watershed Historical Ecology Study. SFEI Contribution No. 1029. San Francisco Estuary Institute: Richmond, Ca.2021.
Restoration Vision for the Laguna de Santa Rosa. SFEI Contribution No. 983. SFEI: Richmond, CA.2020.
The Laguna de Santa Rosa, located in the Russian River watershed in Sonoma County, CA, is an expansive freshwater wetland complex that hosts a rich diversity of plant and wildlife species, many of which are federally or state listed as threatened, endangered, or species of special concern. The Laguna is also home to a thriving agricultural community that depends on the land for its livelihood. Since the mid-19th century, development within the Laguna and its surrounding watershed have had a considerable impact on the landscape, affecting both wildlife and people. Compared to pre-development conditions, the Laguna currently experiences increased stormwater runoff and flooding, increased delivery and accumulation of fine sediment and nutrients, spread of problematic invasive species, and decreased habitat for native fish and wildlife species. Predicted changes in future precipitation patterns and summertime air temperatures, combined with expanding development pressure, could exacerbate these problems. People who manage land and regulate land management decisions in and around the Laguna, including landowners; federal, state, and local agencies; and local stakeholders, are seeking a long-term management approach for the Laguna that improves conditions for the wildlife and people that call the Laguna home. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Sonoma Water funded the Laguna-Mark West Creek Watershed Master Restoration Planning Project to develop such a management approach, focusing on the need to identify restoration and management actions that enhance desired ecological functions of the Laguna, while also supporting the area’s agriculture and its local residents.
Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation. Prepared for the State Coastal Conservancy. A Report of SFEI-ASC’s Resilient Landscapes Program. SFEI Contribution No. 760. San Francisco Estuary Institute - Aquatic Science Center : Richmond, CA. p 230.2017.
The Tijuana River Valley Historical Ecology Investigation addresses a regional data gap by reconstructing the landscape and ecosystem characteristics of the river valley prior to the major modifications of the late 19th and 20th centuries. The research presented here, funded by the California State Coastal Conservancy, supplies foundational information at the regional and system scale about how the Tijuana Estuary, River, and valley looked and functioned in the recent past, as well as how they have changed over time. The ultimate goal of this study is to provide a new tool and framework that, in combination with contemporary research and future projections, can support and guide ongoing restoration design, planning, and management efforts in the valley.