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Fate of endangered species in San Francisco Bay tidal marshes with sea-level rise

salt marsh harvest mouse

The San Francisco Bay estuary, though severely fragmented and modified, represents the largest extent of tidal marsh in the western United States. Projected sea-level rise of 0.3-1.5m poses further threat to several endemic tidal marsh species such as the salt marsh harvest mouse, California clapper rail, and California black rail that are listed as federally endangered or state threatened species. Resource and land managers charged with the protection of endangered species and their habitats are in need of site-specific predictions of anticipated climate change impacts through the synthesis of downscaled regional climate change models and available data on species’ ecological constraints. Changing sediment loads, extreme tide and storm events, salinities, and sea level rise will affect tidal marshes by altering the plant community composition and structure that provide the critical habitat for these endemic species.

Project Details

Our interdisciplinary study objectives are to:
(1) Develop high resolution elevation models of San Francisco tidal salt marshes and predict effects of sea level rise;
(2) determine and quantify the likely effect of sea level rise on vertebrate endemic species and their salt marsh habitats at local and regional landscape levels;
(3) evaluate whether remnant marshes accrete at rates that will be sustainable through time or whether some will be “drowned”; and
(4) downscale tidal cycles to assess site-specific inundation patterns in estuary tidal marshes


USGS Contact For This Project
Karen Thorne
(916) 502-2996
San Francisco Bay Estuary Field Station
505 Azuar Dr.
Vallejo, CA 94562
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