Areas Of Conservation Emphasis (ACE) Version 3: A California Department Of Fish And Wildlife Conservation Analysis Tool
All of state’s salt marshes are at risk of vanishing. Natural protectors are threatened along coast. Blame rising seas and humans, study says. Hundreds of species would be threatened; floods would worsen.
By Rosanna Xia
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.”
PRESENTED BY MELANIE GOGOL-PROKURAT:
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Areas of Conservation Emphasis (ACE) project is a non-regulatory tool that brings together the best available map-based data in California to depict biodiversity, significant habitats, connectivity, climate change resilience, and other datasets for use in conservation planning. ACE compiles and analyzes information from multiple CDFW data products, including the California Natural Diversity Database (CNDDB), California Wildlife Habitat Relationships Program (CWHR), the Survey of California Vegetation, as well as other mapped information found in the Biogeographic Information and Observation System (BIOS) to create products that can help inform landscape-scale conservation decisions. The terrestrial data is summarized and displayed in a standardized hexagon (2.5 mi2) grid, and the aquatic data is compiled by HUC12 watershed. All ACE datasets are available in an online map viewer or for download. CDFW has just completed ACE v3, a major revision and update.
ACE Biodiversity metrics are based on
1) species location information from CNDDB and other species survey datasets for 354 rare and/or endemic vertebrate species and subspecies, and 1672 rare and/or endemic plant taxa; and
2) species range or habitat distribution models for 791 common and rare native species of amphibians, birds, fish, mammals, and reptiles, and 183 families of aquatic macroinvertebrates.
ACE combines information on species occurrence locations and species habitat distribution models in a standardized way to show the distribution of biodiversity, species richness, rarity, and endemism across the state and in each ecoregion. ACE Significant Habitats brings together information on important habitats such as rare vegetation types, oak woodlands, wetlands, and riparian areas based on vegetation maps and other landcover datasets, as well as information on focal species key habitat areas. ACE Connectivity brings together information on natural intact lands, habitat linkages, and wildlife corridors.
ACE Climate Change Resilience brings together information on locations expected to be relatively buffered by climate change impacts. These datasets provide an overview of the conservation elements potentially present at a given location based on best available data, and can be viewed together with State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP) conservation targets, stressors, and juxtaposition to existing conserved lands in the ACE viewer to provide a broad overview of information important to conservation planning and ecological research. We will describe the data currently available in ACE v3, and will present example use-case scenarios.
For more information, go to https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Data/Analysis/ACE