The Baylands and Climate Change: What We Can Do

Science Update 2016
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A Threat and an Opportunity

  • The baylands provide multiple benefits to our region, including flood protection, water purification, recreation, and wildlife habitat. They support our quality of life and our economy. Sea-level rise threatens the long-term survival of the baylands.
  • We have an opportunity to maintain the benefits the baylands provide—but it requires bold action now. If we delay, the opportunity will fade as sea-level rise accelerates.
  • Restoring our baylands is thus not a luxury, but an urgent necessity. The report tracks our progress and provides a suite of recommendations that must be implemented to maintain our baylands. Choosing one or two items will not suffice.

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Restore Processes to Maintain Baylands as Sea Levels Rise

  • The baylands’ continued function as sea level rises relies on restoring not just the habitats, but also the processes that sustain the habitats.
  • These processes include flows of water and sediment from the Bay, streams, and rivers; seasonal patterns of flow that include beneficial flooding; and the arrangement across the landscape of baylands habitats that allow wildlife to move when necessary.
  • Pilot projects that test methods for restoring baylands processes are a high priority. These will help identify the most effective techniques.
  • For wildlife to have refuge during high water, it is crucial to reconnect baylands to adjacent open lands.

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Accelerate Restoration of Baylands in Strategic Areas

  • To maintain the benefits of the baylands for the future we should restore tidal marsh systems in strategic areas by 2030, in areas where they are likely to survive sea-level rise.
  • Marshes established by 2030 are more likely to flourish when sea-level rise accelerates, in the middle of this century.
  • Implementing this strategy requires accelerating the planning, permitting, and construction of restoration projects on lands that are currently available.

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Dredged and Excavated Sediment is a Resource, Not a Waste Product

  • Projections indicate that the current sediment supply is insufficient for marshes to grow fast enough vertically to keep up with sea-level rise.
  • Once considered waste, dredged sediment is increasingly critical for tidal marsh restoration. It should now be managed as a resource for sustaining our shore.
  • A comprehensive regional sediment management plan is essential. It should emphasize the reuse of suitable dredged, excavated, or naturally-occurring sediment from the Bay, local rivers and streams, flood control channels, reservoirs, and other sources.
  • Implementing such a plan will require more extensive coordination among the organizations that manage our watersheds, streams, and baylands.

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Plan for Baylands to Migrate Landward in the Long Term

  • As sea level rises, the Bay will expand. Our plans and policies for the shore should anticipate this change.
  • Baylands have a natural ability to sustain themselves as sea level rises, by slowly migrating landward if space allows.
  • We can take advantage of this natural phenomenon by conserving the transition zone between the baylands and adjacent uplands, which is important wildlife habitat. By planning for this migration now, we will allow future generations to retain benefits provided by the baylands.

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News & Updates

Rising Reality

San Francisco Chronicle Urban Design Critic John King explores the challenges posed by sea level rise in the Bay Area, from the perils facing San Francisco's crumbling Embarcadero to the struggles to revive marshes and the creation of a small city on Treasure Island....

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Work to save San Francisco Bay only just begun

If you love the bay — and if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, chances are you do — you need to know: We have work to do. Rising seas, a warming climate and extreme weather threaten to damage our bay shores, flood our urban communities, harm wildlife, pollute...

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A Roadmap for Wetlands

By the time this issue goes to print, you will hopefully have seen the new report, The Baylands and Climate Change: What We Can Do, released by the California State Coastal Conservancy. This notable report is an update to the 1999 Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals that...

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