American Wetlands Month

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May marks the annual observance of American Wetlands Month, a month dedicated to celebrating one of nature’s most productive ecosystems.

In California, the U.S. Geological Survey – in cooperation with many other local, state, and federal agencies – studies wetlands, looking to better understand how wetlands work, and the importance of wetlands to both humans, and the plants and animals that rely on healthy wetlands to survive.

Wetlands offer many significant benefits for fish and wildlife, as well as society. They provide habitat for thousands of species of aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals. Wetlands are valuable for flood protection, water-quality improvement, shoreline-erosion control, natural products, recreation, and aesthetics.

Pictures of wetlands with USGS scientists

Wetlands with USGS scientists. (Public domain.)

To learn more about Wetlands, visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s website "What is a Wetland?"

The California Water Science Center examines multiple factors when it comes to wetlands, including their aquatic health, their role in a healthy ecosystem, and environmental and man-made influences that affect wetlands.

Learn more about California’s wetlands – and some of the innovative science USGS is doing to better manage and understand them – by exploring the projects and stories below:

San Francisco Bay Wetlands Priority Ecosystem Studies

This multi-year project began in the late 1990s to provide science support for the Napa Salt Pond Restoration Project, a project with a goal of restoration and enhancement of wetlands and transitional habitats on the Napa River – a habitat for many threatened species. The program objective is to support the continuation of sediment flux-data collection at the Dumbarton Bridge, which has been on-going since 2009. This includes collecting temperature and specific conductance at two different depths, and maintaining an acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP). Read more about the various parts of this project at the USGS's San Francisco Bay and Delta PES website.

Growing Science in Agricultural Wetlands

This article follows how USGS science is increasing our understanding of mercury pollution affecting a vital wildlife and human resource – California’s rice fields.

Methane from Some Wetlands May Lower Benefits of Carbon Sequestration

This USGS news release introduces a study that suggests that methane emissions from restored wetlands may offset the benefits of carbon sequestration. According to the study, wetlands are known to reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide, but the amount of methane they produce may reduce, or even negate, the benefits. You can read the full journal article – published first in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences – online.

Low-Intensity Chemical Dosing (LICD)

Learn about how USGS uses science to improve water quality in ecosystems like the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and the San Francisco Estuary. Low-intensity chemical dosing (LICD) is anticipated to remove compounds from treated water, improving water quality and ecosystem health in California’s wetlands.

History of Metal Contamination Recorded in Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Soil

This USGS news release introduces a study that traces the history of lead and mercury contamination in tidal wetlands of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Scientists examined the 6,000 years of the wetland’s history through studying the presence of these metals in organic peat soils, and were able to determine that metal pollution began in 1425 CE.