California and national
wetland habitats shrink annually at an alarming rate.
The 48 contiguous states have a dwindling 100 million acres
of wetlands. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service estimates that
up to 43% of the nation's 1,262 threatened and endangered
species rely on wetlands for their survival.
Wetlands are unique
biologic communities characterized by both aquatic and
terrestrial features. Plants and animals that inhabit
wetlands have successfully evolved morphological and
physiological adaptations to the presence of high levels of
salt and periodic inundation and desiccation, as well as to
low concentrations of dissolved oxygen in the water- logged
soils and exposure to alternating salt and fresh water. Many
wetland inhabitants, including salt marsh plants and some
water birds are able to excrete the excessive amounts of
salt that are absorbed or ingested.
While the debate still
rages (big bucks discussion) as to what constitutes a
wetlands, a Supreme Court ruling in late August 2006 made a
determination as to what a wetland is. Two groups of
Michigan land owners asked the U.S. Supreme Court to strike
down federal rules that protect
almost half of the
nation's streams and wetlands from pollution and bulldozer.
Protections for wetlands
miles away from waterways was extended in the Clean Water
Act of 1972.
In California, wetlands
are commonly classified according to the length of time that
an area is inundated or saturated by water or the types of
plants and animals an area supports. Five major wetland
classifications: marine, estuarine, lacustrine,
riverine, and palustrine. Marine and estuarine wetlands are
associated with the ocean and include coastal wetlands, such
as tidal marshes. Lacustrine wetlands are associated
with lakes, while riverine wetlands are found along rivers
and streams. Palustrine wetlands may be isolated or
connected wet areas and include marshes, swamps, and bogs.
Most of California's
coastal wetlands are estuarine salt marshes with associated
tidal channels and mudflats.
formed where freshwater streams meet the sea, and contain
variably brackish water. Salt marshes develop along the
shores of protected estuarine bays and river mouths,
as well as in more marine-dominated bays and lagoons.
Wetlands that are less common along the California coast are
freshwater marshes, riparian wetlands, bogs, and vernal
pools. Freshwater marshes, like salt water marshes, are
vegetated mostly with herbaceous plants, predominantly
cattails, sedges, and rushes.
have mineral soils that are less fertile than those of
salt marshes, and exhibit a greater variety of plant species
than salt marshes. Riparian wetlands, which occur on the
banks of steams, rivers, and lakes, commonly feature woody
Studies of California wetlands and wetlands mitigation
have provided some insights into efforts into creating
wetlands of equal value to those lost to development.
Birds in California
American peregrine falcon
American white pelican
Belding's Savannah sparrow
California brown pelican
California horned lark
California least tern
Large-billed Savannah sparrow
Least Bell's vireo
Light-footed clapper rail
Western least bittern
Western snowy plover