SFEI's Letitia Grenier served as lead scientist of the Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals Project, which has yielded a report called The Baylands and Climate Change: What We Can Do. The report is an update to the 1999 Baylands Ecosystem Habitat Goals, which for the first time set comprehensive restoration goals for the San Francisco Bay estuary. Produced by a collaborative of 21 management agencies working with a multi-disciplinary team of over 100 scientists, the new report synthesizes the latest science—particularly advances in the understanding of climate change and sediment supply—and incorporates projected changes through 2100 to generate new recommendations for achieving and sustaining healthy baylands ecosystems.
Among the key findings of The Baylands and Climate Change are the following:
- Work with nature, not against it. Protect existing wetlands and provide the needed sediment for wetlands to keep pace with sea level rise. Wetlands are self-maintaining and can be a resilient buffer against sea level rise and storms, if we allow the natural flows of sediment and water that nourish them to occur. The alternative is sea walls and levees that require ongoing, expensive maintenance and none of the other benefits of wetlands.
- Start today. Time is a key factor. An accelerated effort in the next few decades can save over 80% of our existing wetlands over the next 100 years.
- Remember our streams. A key solution to rising Bay waters is right here in our own backyards. We should manage our land and streams to deliver sediment and clean water to the bay shore to nourish marsh growth. We should work with the entire watershed system, from the hills to the Bay.
- Sediment is essential to grow and sustain our wetlands. A major threat to S.F. Bay wetlands is a lack of sediment in the bay for building up the wetlands. Wetlands can keep up with rising seas only if sediment builds up along the surface of a marsh over time. This needed sediment can come from shipping and flood control channels, streams and other sources. Agencies have an opportunity to bring sediment to wetlands instead of dumping it in the ocean or in landfills.
With the broad base of support among partnering agencies, the project has already garnered attention from news media and the public. Its findings offer a roadmap for policy makers who recognize this moment as a paramount time to act in smart, thoughtful, and effective ways.
Josh Collins, who served as the lead scientist for the 1999 Baylands Goals, contributed to this project. Other SFEI scientists — namely, April Robinson, and Jeremy Lowe — also wrote portions of the seminal report.
In the video below, Dr. Grenier walks interested stakeholders through the report's primary findings.