Welcome to California River Watch!

I find some hope for the future of our planet in the emergence of millions of unconnected environmental and social movements. The leaderless Anarchy of this mass phenomenon and its macro scale means that its cells will not be centrally controlled or turned aside by profit motives. It seems to be a genuine grass roots response to the global threat which our planet faces. —Paul Hawken «

Clean Water Act Video River Watch got a request from a teacher whose student requested that CRW post a link to a video on the history and explanation of the Clean Water Act. This an excellent video and we appreciate being contacted in order to show it to a larger audience.


All of state’s salt marshes are at risk of vanishing.

Land use strategies to mitigate climate change in carbon dense temperate forests

Beverly E. Law, Tara W. Hudiburg, Logan T. Berner, Jeffrey J. Kent, Polly C. Buotte and Mark E. Harmon
PNAS March 19, 2018. 201720064; published ahead of print March 19, 2018. 

Edited by William H. Schlesinger, Duke University, Durham, NC, and approved January 22, 2018 (received for review November 16, 2017) 


Regional quantification of feasibility and effectiveness of forest strategies to mitigate climate change should integrate observations and mechanistic ecosystem process models with future climate, CO2, disturbances from fire, and management. Here, we demonstrate this approach in a high biomass region, and found that reforestation, afforestation, lengthened harvest cycles on private lands, and restricting harvest on public lands increased net ecosystem carbon balance by 56% by 2100, with the latter two actions contributing the most. Forest sector emissions tracked with our life cycle assessment model decreased by 17%, partially meeting emissions reduction goals. Harvest residue bioenergy use did not reduce short-term emissions. Cobenefits include increased water availability and biodiversity of forest species. Our improved analysis framework can be used in other temperate regions.


Strategies to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions through forestry activities have been proposed, but ecosystem process-based integration of climate change, enhanced CO2, disturbance from fire, and management actions at regional scales are extremely limited. Here, we examine the relative merits of afforestation, reforestation, management changes, and harvest residue bioenergy use in the Pacific Northwest. This region represents some of the highest carbon density forests in the world, which can store carbon in trees for 800 y or more. Oregon’s net ecosystem carbon balance (NECB) was equivalent to 72% of total emissions in 2011–2015. By 2100, simulations show increased net carbon uptake with little change in wildfires. Reforestation, afforestation, lengthened harvest cycles on private lands, and restricting harvest on public lands increase NECB 56% by 2100, with the latter two actions contributing the most. Resultant cobenefits included water availability and biodiversity, primarily from increased forest area, age, and species diversity. Converting 127,000 ha of irrigated grass crops to native forests could decrease irrigation demand by 233 billion m3 y 1. Utilizing harvest residues for bioenergy production instead of leaving them in forests to decompose increased emissions in the short-term (50 y), reducing mitigation effectiveness. Increasing forest carbon on public lands reduced emissions compared with storage in wood products because the residence time is more than twice that of wood products. Hence, temperate forests with high carbon densities and lower vulnerability to mortality have substantial potential for reducing forest sector emissions. Our analysis framework provides a template for assessments in other temperate regions.  

Continued at: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1720064115 
or download pdf file.

By Rosanna Xia

Natural protectors are threatened along coast. Blame rising seas and humans, study says. Hundreds of species would be threatened; floods would worsen.

Bolinas Lagoon, Marin County CA
Bolinas Lagoon, Marin County CA

On one side, there’s the rising ocean. On the other, rising buildings.

Squeezed between the two are California’s salt marshes, a unique ecosystem filled with pickleweed and cordgrass, shorebirds and many endangered species.

Coastal wetlands such as Bolinas Lagoon in Marin County, the marshes along Morro Bay and the ecological preserve in Newport Beach can purify the air, cleanse urban runoff before it flows into the sea and reduce flooding by absorbing storm surges like a sponge.

But there’s little room left for this ecosystem along the changing Pacific Coast, as the sea continues to rise and Californians continue to develop the shore. Southern California today has already lost three-quarters of its salt marshes.

The rest could be gone within 100 years. Salt marshes in California and Oregon could disappear entirely by 2110, according to a new study by a team of scientists led by the U.S. Geological Survey. Only a few might survive in Washington. The research quantifies for the first time the fate of this entire ecosystem on the West Coast, based on current projections of sea level rise.

“We’re essentially drowning the marshes,” said Glen MacDonald, a UCLA professor of geography and one of the authors of the study. “If we stay on the same carbon pathway that we are on now, and we take a look at conservative estimates of sea level rise, we would see California vegetated salt marshes we know today, Oregon vegetated salt marshes we know today, 100% gone by the first decade of the 22nd century.”

The study, published in Science Advances, examines 14 major estuaries along the West Coast, from the marshes of Port Susan Bay in northern Washington down to the Tijuana River Estuary.

Marsh by marsh, over many years, scientists measured elevation, tidal flooding, the distribution of vegetation and rates of sedimentation. Using sea level projections by the National Research Council, they designed a sophisticated model to project how each marsh would fare. By even the most conservative measures, the damage was significant — especially in California.

Coastal marshes naturally adapt to sea level rise by migrating inland through a process called transgression. But by building the Pacific Coast Highway and developing up to the edge of basically every marsh, Californians have drawn a line in the sand.

“Think about Seal Beach, think about Carpinteria,” MacDonald said. “You have expensive housing, you have commercial developments, you have our major coastal highways, the railroad, basically hemming in those marshes.”