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Habitat Restoration: Planning for Climate Change

By Richard Stapler, California Natural Resources Agency


Each week, we learn more about how climate change is likely to affect California. The U.S. Department of the Interior just released the “Sacramento and San Joaquin Basins Climate Impact Assessment,” detailing the impacts of climate change on the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Read the report here


The effects of climate change on the Delta described in the Interior report includes more frequent saltwater inundation from the San Francisco Bay and Pacific Ocean into the freshwater estuary. This advancing inundation only underscores the importance of Delta habitat restoration.


Over the last 150 years, hundreds of thousands of acres of slow-moving sloughs, riparian forest, and tidal marshes of tule and cattail have been converted to farms, levees, roads, and other human-built structures.  The Bay Delta Conservation Plan proposes to – over a 50-year timetable – return about 150,000 acres of the Delta back to different forms of habitat. Learn more here


About 40,000 acres of the restored habitat will remain working agricultural lands. Various crops and grazing easily allow for a sustainable balance with the flora and fauna that call the region home. The restored areas will not only allow area species room to recover and thrive, but also will provide a life- and property-saving buffer from rising sea levels.  


As the authors of Climate Change and San Francisco Bay-Delta Tidal Wetlands state: “To maximize the flexibility needed to address the uncertainties of climate change, potential restoration sites should be restored sooner rather than later, because vegetated wetlands are likely to be more resilient to climate change than unvegetated sites.” 


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