Image courtesy of Bruce Herbold
Climate change is heating, salinizing, and expanding the San Francisco Estuary, a review of nearly 200 scientific studies concludes.
Sea level rise, changing snow and rainfall patterns, and warmer waters are some of the changes already observed in the Estuary and expected to continue through the rest of the century as greenhouse gas concentrations rise. Changes to water are at the heart of the documented and further expected impacts; there’s less of it entering the system overall, but more arriving in torrential bursts, and more saltwater creeping inland from the Bay. The scope of the research is expansive even for a review article
, in part because climate changes aren’t happening in isolation from other threats and habitat impacts. Writing in San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science
, the authors attempt to summarize not only all known research about climate change impacts on several upper estuarine ecosystems, but incorporate examples of impacts on two native fish
species, as well as caveats accounting for the compounded impacts of other modern disruptions to the Estuary. Lead author Bruce Herbold expressed hope that instead of dealing with each subsequent drought, hot spell, and flood “on an emergency-by-emergency basis,” policymakers will shift to anticipating extreme conditions that threaten the Estuary’s ecosystems and species. The authors suggest focusing policy strategies on what the region can control: monitoring, habitat restoration, and to an extent, water flows. The larger issue at hand—the rapid pace of global change—is wisely counted outside the influence of Estuary managers and scientists.
“At the very least,” the paper concludes, “we need to consider our science and management in the context of environmental extremes as the new normal.”