The Laguna de Santa Rosa (Laguna) watershed spans 256 square miles and supports a unique complex of biologically diverse ecosystems. Containing the urban centers of Santa Rosa, Sebastopol, Cotati, Rohnert Park, and Windsor, the Laguna watershed encompasses one of the largest floodplains in California. Historically the Laguna watershed supported a diverse ecosystem consisting of oak savanna/vernal pool complexes, riparian forest, emergent and off channel wetlands, and open water. The Laguna has been intensively modified, yet it still supports 19 species federally listed as threatened or endangered including the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii), and Chinook and Coho salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha and Oncorhynchus mykiss). Laguna main channel and surrounding floodplain were recently designated as a Wetland of International Importance (Ramsar Convention), joining less than 30 other sites in the nation to receive this significant global recognition. The Laguna watershed is a critical ecological, economic, and recreational resource in the region. Typical of many communities in the San Francisco Bay area and throughout California, the watershed faces the challenges of sustaining agricultural production, accommodating expanding populations, promoting watershed and wetland conservation, and mitigating historic and continued anthropogenic impacts. A range of efforts are currently underway to preserve and enhance the natural heritage of the area.

Historical ecology research in the Laguna is intended to inform these objectives:

  • Restoration of Russian River salmon populations
  • TMDL implementation
  • Flood protection
  • Stream restoration and maintenance
  • Threatened and endangered species management
  • Climate adaptation
  • Integrated regional water management
  • Open space acquisition and conservation
  • Incorporation of Traditional Knowledges into resource planning and management
  • Cost savings
  • Pollution trading market development
  • Community education

Project Partners and Funders

Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation
North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board
Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District
Sonoma County Water Agency
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – National Marine Fisheries Service

Funded projects under this Initiative

Lower Laguna de Santa Rosa and Mark West Creek: Changes in Historical Channel Alignment
1942 Historical aerial photomosaic (see below)
Historical Ecology for Guiding TMDL Implementation in the Laguna de Santa Rosa Watershed (State Board Agreement #13-505-251)

Project Downloads

Information associated with this project will also be available at Sonoma Veg Map

Sonoma Veg Map "Storytelling Swipe" using 1942 photomosaic

1942 Historical aerial photomosaic (413 Mb)

This project is scheduled for completion in late 2017

Associated Staff: 
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Resilient Landscapes Program
Historical Ecology
Location Information