Climate change and San Francisco Bay-Delta tidal wetlands

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Parker, V. Thomas, Callaway, John C., Schile, Lisa M., Vasey, Michael C., and Herbert, Ellen R.

Climate change will affect tidal wetlands with higher rates of sea-level rise and higher concentrations of salt in brackish and freshwater tidal systems, in addition to causing increases in atmospheric CO2 concentration, warmer temperatures, and shifts in precipitation. In the San Francisco Bay–Delta, the areas most likely to be affected—brackish and freshwater tidal wetlands—are also the sites with the majority of endemic plant species and the greater biodiversity and productivity. Effects on the San Francisco Bay– Delta estuary are complex and difficult to predict, but a few things are clear. Biodiversity of the tidal wetland system in the San Francisco Bay–Delta region will decline, with subsequent effects on ecosystem functioning and services. Altered plant production, physiological tolerances, and shifts in rates of mortality will modify wetland plant communities in ways not yet predictable. Lower ecosystem productivity from salinity increases will affect both primary and detrital-based food webs. Such changes will cascade via the food webs into invertebrate, bird, and pelagic systems. Tidal wetlands are especially sensitive to processes that climate change will alter. Several of these altered processes are exacerbated by water diversions from the Delta.


Parker, V. T., J. C. Callaway, L. M. Schile, M. C. Vasey, and E. R. Herbert. 2011. Climate change and San Francisco Bay-Delta tidal wetlands. San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science 9(3)