Regional approaches to coastal wetland restoration are one of the best ways to ensure that these threatened habitats persist in the face of sea level rise. Regional approaches provide a mechanism for prioritizing restoration actions in areas where future conditions will promote maximum resiliency while still providing for an appropriate composition of plant and animal habitats across the region as a whole. Developing a regional restoration strategy requires understanding historical losses relative to contemporary habitat distributions, predicting future changes due to sea level rise (and other stressors), and evaluating management actions with the potential to offset expected future losses. In this study, we present an approach to assess historical losses and future management options for more than 100 individual wetlands along the Southern California (USA) coast ranging in size from a few tenths of a hectare to over 250 ha. This analysis was conducted to support development of a regional wetland strategy that will guide restoration in Southern California for the next several decades. The approach consisted of reconstructing historical wetland distribution using US Coast and Geodetic Survey T-sheets, mapping current wetlands and classifying them into archetypes that represent different settings and processes, and predicting future distributions based on a hypsometric model of elevation changes under various sea level rise and management scenarios. Historical analysis revealed that two-thirds of the 331 wetlands present in ca. 1850 and 75% of vegetated estuarine habitat area has been lost, with most losses occurring in small to medium size wetlands. Up to 69% of the remaining marshes and flats could be lost with 1.7 m of sea level rise, with an associated increase in subtidal habitat. However, potential future losses could be largely offset, and total area could increase under scenarios of facilitated wetland migration and sediment augmentation. Although the future distribution of wetlands would likely be different from current conditions, sufficient habitat would be provided region-wide. This analysis demonstrates how regional analysis of historic, present, and likely future conditions can support a strategy that could lead to net wetland gain under future sea level rise conditions. However, immediate and decisive action is necessary.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Allen, D.Y. 1997. The enigmatic topographic maps of the U.S. coast survey, 1834-1861. Meridian 13: 42–60.
Askevold, R. A. 2005. Interpreting historical maps to reconstruct past landscapes in the Santa Clara Valley. Master’s Thesis, Geography, San Francisco State University, San Francisco.
Bedford, B.L. 1999. Cumulative effects on wetland landscapes: links to wetland restoration in the United States and southern Canada. Wetlands 19 (4): 775–788.
Berteaux, D., S. de Blois, J.-F. Angers, J. Bonin, N. Casajus, M. Darveau, F. Fournier, M.M. Humphries, B. McGill, J. Larivée, T. Logan, P. Nantel, C. Périé, F. Poisson, D. Rodrigue, S. Rouleau, R. Siron, W. Thuiller, and L. Vescovi. 2010. The CC-bio project: studying the effects of climate change on Quebec biodiversity. Diversity 2010 (2): 1181–1204. https://doi.org/10.3390/d2111181.
Blankespoor, B., S. Dasgupta, and B. Laplante. 2014. Sea-level rise and coastal wetlands. AMBIO 43 (8): 996–1005. https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-014-0500-4.
Boesch, D.F. 2006. Scientific requirements for ecosystem-based management in the restoration of Chesapeake Bay and coastal Louisiana. Ecological Engineering 26: 6–26.
Borchert, S.M., M.J. Osland, N.M. Enwright, and K.T. Griffith. 2018. Coastal wetland adaptation to sea level rise: quantifying potential for landward migration and coastal squeeze. Journal of Applied Ecology. 55: 2876–2887. https://doi.org/10.1111/1365-2664.13169.
Cahoon, D.R., J.C. Lynch, C.T. Roman, J.P. Schmit, and D.E. Skidds. 2019. Evaluating the relationship among wetland vertical development, elevation capital, sea-level rise, and tidal marsh sustainability. Estuaries and Coasts 42 (1): 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-018-0448-x.
California Coastal Commission. 2015. Sea level rise policy guidance: interpretive guidelines for addressing sea level rise in local coastal programs. California Coastal Commission: San Francisco, California.
Cazenave, A., and G.Le. Cozannet. 2013. Sea level rise and its coastal impacts. Earth’s Future 2: 15–34. https://doi.org/10.1002/2013EF000188.
Cowardin, L.M., V. Carter, F. Golet, and E.T. Laroe. 1979. Classification of wetlands and deepwater habitats of the United States. Washington, DC: Office of Biological Services, US fish and wildlife services. FWO/OBS-79-31.
Craft, C., J. Clough, J. Ehman, S. Joye, R. Park, S. Pennings, H. Guo, and M. Machmuller. 2008. Forecasting the effects of accelerated sea-level rise on tidal marsh ecosystem services. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 7 (2): 73–78. https://doi.org/10.1890/070219.
Daniels, R.C., and R.H. Huxford. 2001. An error assessment of vector data derived from scanned National Ocean Service topographic sheets. Journal of Coastal Research 17 (3): 611–619.
Doughty, C.L. 2018. Southern California Wetlands Recovery Project Regional Strategy Update - sea level rise model (scwrp-rsu-slr-model), GitHub repository. Available online: https://www.github.com/cldoughty/scwrp-rsu-slr-model.
Doughty, C.L., K.C. Cavanaugh, R.F. Ambrose, and E.D. Stein. 2019. Evaluating regional resiliency of coastal wetlands to sea level rise through hypsometry-based modeling. Global Change Biology. 25 (1): 78–92. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14429.
Gilmer, B., J. Brenner, and J. Sheets. 2012. Informing conservation planning using sea-level rise and storm surge impact estimates in the Galveston Bay and Jefferson County. The Nature Conservancy: Texas Area.
Griggs, G., Árvai, J., Cayan, D., DeConto, R., Fox, J., Fricker, H., … Group, California Ocean Protection Council Science Advisory Team Working. 2017. Rising Seas in California: an update on sea-level rise science. Retrieved from http://www.opc.ca.gov/webmaster/ftp/pdf/docs/rising-seas-in-california-an-update-on-sea-level-rise-science.pdf.
Grossinger, R., E.D. Stein, K Cayce, R Askevold, S Dark, and A. Whipple 2011. Historical wetlands of the Southern California coast: an atlas of US Coast Survey T-sheets, 1851-1889. SFEI, SCCWRP, and CSUN. https://www.sfei.org/sites/default/files/So_Cal_T-sheet_Atlas_highres.pdf.
Hartigan, J.A., and M.A. Wong. 1979. Algorithm AS 136: a k-means clustering algorithm. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society. Series C (Applied Statistics) 28 (1): 100–108. https://doi.org/10.2307/2346830.
Jacobs, D., Stein, E.D., Longcore, T. 2011. Classification of California estuaries based on natural closure patterns: templates for restoration and management. Southern California coastal water research project technical report #619a. Costa Mesa.
Kentula, M.E. 2002. Restoration, creation, and recovery of wetlands: wetland restoration and creation. National Water Summary on Wetland Resources. United States Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 2425.
Kirwan, M.L., G.R. Guntenspergen, A. D’Alpaos, J.T. Morris, S.M. Mudd, and S. Temmerman. 2010. Limits on the adaptability of coastal marshes to rising sea level. Geophysical Research Letters 37 (23): L23401. https://doi.org/10.1029/2010GL045489.
Lentz, E.E., E.R. Thieler, N.G. Plant, S.R. Stippa, R.M. Horton, and D.B. Gesch. 2016. Evaluation of dynamic coastal response to sea-level rise modifies inundation likelihood. Nature Climate Change 6 (7): 696–700. https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2957.
Li, X., R. Bellerby, C. Craft, and S.E. Widney. 2017. Coastal wetland loss, consequences, and challenges for restoration. Anthropocene Coasts 1: 1–15. https://doi.org/10.1139/anc-2017-0001.
McSweeney, S.L., D.M. Kennedy, and I.D. Rutherford. 2017. A geomorphic classification of intermittently open/closed estuaries (IOCE) derived from estuaries in Victoria, Australia. Progress in Physical Geography: Earth and Environment 41 (4): 421–449. https://doi.org/10.1177/0309133317709745.
Mueller, P., K. Jensen, and J.P. Megonigal. 2016. Plants mediate soil organic matter decomposition in response to sea level rise. Global Change Biology 22 (1): 404–414. https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.13082.
National Research Council. 2012. Sea-level rise for the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: past, present, and future. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. https://doi.org/10.17226/13389.
Raabe, E.A., L.C. Roy, and C.C. MclVor. 2012. Tampa Bay coastal wetlands: nineteenth to twentieth century tidal marsh-to-mangrove conversion. Estuaries and Coasts 35 (5): 1145–1162.
Rudnick, D., Beier, P., Cushman, S., Dieffenbach, F., Epps, C.W., Gerber, L., Hartter, J., Jenness, J., Kintsch, J., Merenlender, A.M., Perkle, R.M., Preziosi, D.V., Ryan, S.J., and S. C. Trombulak. “The Role of landscape connectivity in planning and implementing conservation and restoration 38 priorities.” 2012. Issues in Ecology. Report No. 16. Ecological Society of America. Washington, D.C.
Schieder, N.W., D.C. Walters, and M.L. Kirwan. 2018. Massive upland to wetland conversion compensated for historical marsh loss in Chesapeake Bay, USA. Estuaries and Coasts 41 (4): 940–951. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-017-0336-9.
Schuerch, M., T. Spencer, S. Temmerman, M.L. Kirwan, C. Wolff, D. Lincke, C.J. McOwen, M.D. Pickering, R. Reef, A.T. Vafeidis, J. Hinkel, R.J. Nicholls, and S. Brown. 2018. Future response of global coastal wetlands to sea-level rise. Nature 561 (7722): 231–234. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-018-0476-5.
SCWRP. 2018. Wetlands on the edge: the future of Southern California’s wetlands: regional strategy 2018 prepared by the Southern California wetlands recovery project. Oakland, CA: California State Coastal Conservancy.
Simenstad, C., D. Reed, and M. Ford. 2006. When is restoration not? Incorporating landscape-scale processes to restore self-sustaining ecosystems in coastal wetland restoration. Ecological Engineering 26: 27–39.
Smith MJ, Cromley RG. 2006. coastal survey maps: from historical documents to digital databases, University of Connecticut Center for geographic information and analysis (UCCGIA) papers and proceedings, no.1. University of Connecticut Center for geographic information and analysis, Storrs.
Spies BT, DA Boughton, and DK Jacobs. 2019. Modeling metapopulation viability and persistence of the endangered tidewater gobies (genus Eucyclogobius) on the California coast. (In Preparation).
Stein, E.D., S. Dark, T. Longcore, R. Grossinger, N. Hall, and M. Beland. 2010. Historical ecology as a tool for assessing landscape change and informing wetland restoration priorities. Wetlands 30: 589–601.
Stein, E.D., K. Cayce, M. Salomon, D.L. Bram, D. De Mello, R. Grossinger, and S. Dark. 2014. Wetlands of the Southern California coast –historical extent and change over time. Southern California coastal water research project technical report #826.
Stralberg, D., M. Brennan, J.C. Callaway, J.K. Wood, L.M. Schile, D. Jongsomjit, M. Kelly, V.T. Parker, and S. Crooks. 2011. Evaluating tidal marsh sustainability in the face of sea-level rise: a hybrid modeling approach applied to San Francisco Bay. PLoS One 6 (11): e27388. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0027388.
Swanson, K.M., J.Z. Drexler, D.H. Schoellhamer, K.M. Thorne, M.L. Casazza, C.T. Overton, and J.Y. Takekawa. 2014. Wetland accretion rate model of ecosystem resilience (WARMER) and its application to habitat sustainability for endangered species in the San Francisco estuary. Estuaries and Coasts 37 (2): 476–492. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-013-9694-0.
Thorne, K., MacDonald, G. M., Takekawa, J. Y., Ambrose, R. A., Barnard, P., Guntenspergen, G. R., … Powelson, K. 2016. Climate change effects on tidal marshes along a latitudinal gradient in California. U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2016–1125, 75 p. https://doi.org/10.3133/ofr20161125.
Thorne, K., G. MacDonald, G. Guntenspergen, R. Ambrose, K. Buffington, B. Dugger, C. Freeman, C. Janousek, L. Brown, J. Rosencranz, J. Holmquist, J. Smol, K. Hargan, and J. Takekawa. 2018. U.S. Pacific coastal wetland resilience and vulnerability to sea-level rise. Science Advances 4: eaao3270.
Thorne, K.M., C.M. Freeman, J.A. Rosencranz, N.K. Ganju, and G.R. Guntenspergen. 2019. Thin-layer sediment addition to an existing salt marsh to combat sea-level rise and improve endangered species habitat in California, USA. Ecological Engineering 136: 197–208.
U.S. Census Bureau (2013). Population and Housing Estimates. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popest.html
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). 2005. Recovery plan for the tidewater goby (Eucyclogobius newberryi). Portland: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service vi + 199 pp.
Zedler, J.B. 1996. Coastal mitigation in Southern California: the need for a regional restoration strategy. Ecological Applications 6 (1): 84–93.
Zedler, J.B. 2000. Progress in wetland restoration ecology. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 15 (10): 402–407.
This work was conducted as part of the Southern California Wetland Recovery Project (SCWRP) aimed at preserving the remaining coastal wetlands in the Southern California region (https://scwrp.org/). Funding for the historical analysis was provided the California State Coastal Conservancy (Agreement 06-061), US Fish and Wildlife Service (Co-op Agreement #80211AJ111), and the California State Wildlife Conservation Board. Dr. John Cloud was instrumental in helping us obtain high-resolution scans of the T-sheets that formed the basis for much of our analysis. We thank Wayne Engstrom, Walter Heady, David Jacobs, and Richard Ambrose for their insightful and constructive comments. We are forever indebted to the talented surveyors and cartographers who produced the T-sheets that have provided valuable insight into historical conditions along the Southern California Bight. We thank Micha Solomon of the San Francisco Estuary Institute for helping in GIS mapping of historical wetlands. Funding for the sea level rise analysis was provided by grants from the US Fish and Wildlife Service Landscape Conservation Cooperative (LCC) Program, the California State Coastal Conservancy, and the USC Sea Grant Trainee Program. The SCWRP effort is an interagency consortium involving federal, state, and local agencies, ranging, for example, from the US Army Corps of Engineers, the CA Coastal Conservancy, and the CA State Water Resources Board down to individual site management like the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. Therefore, we would like to express our gratitude toward all who contributed to this project, especially the SCWRP’s Science Advisory Panel for their input and guidance.
Wetland of other archetypes may also intermittently close to the tides. However the Intermediate class is characterized by medium size estuaries with mouths that routinely close
Communicated by Stijn Temmerman
Electronic supplementary material
About this article
Cite this article
Stein, E.D., Doughty, C.L., Lowe, J. et al. Establishing Targets for Regional Coastal Wetland Restoration Planning Using Historical Ecology and Future Scenario Analysis: The Past, Present, Future Approach. Estuaries and Coasts (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-019-00681-4
- Regional wetland planning
- Sea level rise
- Historical ecology