Save The Bay works to restore Bay habitat at significant scale, both through advancing sound science and by securing the funding necessary for these projects.
Wetland plants filter the pollution to actually clean the Bay by trapping polluted runoff before toxins can reach open water.
California’s wetlands provide tremendous benefits to the state from tourism, fishing, and recreation.
Tidal marshes are one of the natural systems that capture and store carbon from the atmosphere.
Healthy tidal marshes serve as foraging and breeding grounds, providing food for hundreds of species, including many that are threatened and endangered.
Wetlands are beautiful areas of open space around the highly urbanized Bay Area, and many trails and parks near wetlands provide residents with places to hike, birdwatch, bike, kayak, and more.
Many residents live and work at or below sea level. Wetlands can provide flood protection because they act as sponges, slowing down and soaking up large quantities of water from storms and high tides.
Despite how important these lands are, over the last 200 years, we lost 90 percent of the Bay’s wetlands due to human activity. Around the Bay, wetlands were diked, drained, or converted to areas for agriculture, salt production, and urban development. Save The Bay’s report, Greening The Bay, outlined the need for 100,000 acres of tidal marsh habitat around the Bay and identified local funding as the key to creating a healthy Bay for future generations. In 2016, Save The Bay and other partners successfully secured passage of Measure AA, which will provide $500 million to fund critical restoration projects over the next 20 years. This fund will allocate resources for the restoration, enhancement, protection, and enjoyment of wetlands and wildlife habitat in San Francisco Bay and along its shoreline.
The transition zone, or ecotone, is the integrated area where two different habitats meet. Along the Bay’s shoreline, the continuum of habitats includes subtidal, tidal marsh, transition zone, and uplands. This historically wide, gently sloping habitat between the marsh and uplands is an integral component of a complete wetland system and in many areas, it’s been reduced to a mere few feet wide. This habitat is where Save The Bay’s Habitat Restoration team focuses their efforts.
Transition zones provide resources and refuge from high tides for a number of important species including the Ridgway’s Rail and the salt marsh harvest mouse, both federally endangered and endemic species to the Bay Area. These areas also serve as movement corridors, an important function connecting the two neighboring habitats. Restoring wetland transition zones reconnects habitat fragmented due to human activity, and in turn better supports the complex and interconnected ecology of the Baylands.
Restoration of wetland transition zones also benefits humans! Transition zones along the shoreline can buffer our communities from high tides, storm surges, and wave run-up from the Bay during severe weather events, occurrences that will become more frequent and extreme with climate change. Additionally, wider transition zones adjacent to marshes can help protect our urban areas while also allowing enough space for marshes to move upland and adapt to sea level rise. Transition zones also process and filter nutrients from the uplands or from rivers and creeks and upstream sources before they enter the Bay. Historically, humans have occupied and accessed the shoreline for all types of cultural activities including accessing food resources and living at the edge of the shoreline, and more recently using the shore for recreational and educational activities.
Ensuring that we protect and restore these unique habitats is vital for both humans and wildlife. The recentBaylands Goals Update Report identified the need for more and larger transition zones to ensure the preservation of the ecosystem services that these areas provide, particularly in the face of sea level rise and other climate change impacts. Many restored transition zones of years past comprised smaller project sites with narrow, fringing habitats adjacent to marshes. In conjunction with our partners, we are now working on more and larger transition zones (15-40 acres in size) and piloting innovative methods to grow thousands of plants for our restoration work. The Oro Loma Horizontal Levee Project and our current work with the California State Coastal Conservancyand the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at Ravenswoodand Bel Marin Keys are examples of how we are scaling up and providing leadership to restore large-scale transition zones.
Save The Bay operates four nursery facilities to support our habitat restoration work. We propagate and outplant approximately 35,000–40,000 plants each year, between our facilities in the Palo Alto Baylands and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Shoreline. Our operations at the Oro Loma Sanitary District and Bel Marin Keys provide the extra capacity to significantly scale up our propagation numbers and grow plants for large wetland restoration projects.
In partnership with the city of Palo Alto, Save The Bay has been operating Baylands Nursery for 20+ years The facility comprises of a greenhouse, a large shade house for growing plants, and a large work shed, in which we store our tools, education supplies, and restoration equipment. This nursery supplies the equipment for most of our sites on the west side of the Bay.
For nearly 20 years, Save The Bay has been partnering with the East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) to operate the nursery on the Martin Luther King, Jr. Shoreline. The MLK Nursery supports plant propagation for many of our East Bay sites, in addition to providing valuable program opportunities for volunteers who want to work in our nurseries.
In partnership with the Oro Loma Sanitary District, Save The Bay maintains 17 raised beds to grow wetland plants for the Oro Loma Horizontal Levee Project. This nursery facility also provides plants for other Save The Bay restoration projects located in the East Bay
In the winter of 2017, Save The Bay began farming operations at a three-acre site at the Bel Marin Keys Wetland Restoration Project. In partnership with the California Coastal Conservancy and Plant Minded Landscapes at the Hamilton Nursery facility, we are restoring nearly 40 acres of seasonal wetlands over the next two years.