5 Reasons Why Our Bay Wetlands Are Important

Photo by: Judy Irving

Happy World Wetlands Day!

San Francisco Bay was dubbed a Wetland of International Importance in 2013 under an international conservation treaty called the Ramsar Convention.

Wetlands serve vital functions, but are also at risk of destruction. In fact, over 64% of the world’s wetlands have been destroyed since 1900. Fortunately, local activists around the world and here in the Bay Area have been working to protect and restore wetlands for future generations.

Often referred to as the “lungs of the Bay,” here are 5 reasons why our Bay wetlands are important.

1. Wetlands help purify and counterbalance the human effect on water quality.    

Wetlands trap polluted runoff before toxins can reach open Bay water. This natural filtering process actually purifies the waters of the Bay.

Photo by: Vivian Reed

2. Wetlands help curb global warming and protect communities from sea level rise.

Greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, released into the atmosphere are captured, stored, and filtered by our wetlands.

Traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge
Photo by: Vivian Reed

Healthy wetlands also act as sponges capable of soaking up large quantities of water from rain storms and high tides, including King Tides.

King Tides nearly flood this Interstate 880 frontage road by the Oakland Coliseum around 10:30 am.

King Tides nearly flood this Interstate 880 frontage road by the Oakland Coliseum. Photo by: Vivian Reed
Photo by: Vivian Reed

The tall pillars supporting the same frontage road by the Oakland Coliseum are revealed during low tide around 5:30 pm.

Tall pillars supporting the same frontage road by the Oakland Coliseum are revealed during low tide. Photo by: Vivian Reed
Photo by: Vivian Reed

3. Wetlands provide habitat for endangered species.

Healthy tidal marshes provide food and shelter from predators for a number of endangered and threatened species.

San Francisco Bay’s Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse is the tiniest endangered species.

The Ridgway’s Rail is one of the Bay’s endangered species that depends on healthy wetlands to survive.

California Clapper Rail
Photo by: Dan Sullivan.

They also offer migratory animals a place to rest and reproduce along the Pacific Flyway.

A pair of Canada Geese rest along the Bay shoreline during their migration across North America.

Photo by: Vivian Reed

4. Our wetlands are beautiful areas of open space around the highly urbanized Bay Area that provide residents with many recreational opportunities.  

Like this:

In the mid 2000s, Save The Bay’s Canoes In Sloughs (pronounced “slews”) program offered Bay Area students a unique way to learn about and have fun on the Bay.

Canoes in the Sloughs
Photo by: Judy Irving

Or this:

A bicyclist admires the Bay views as he pedals along the Bay Trail.

Bike rider on the Bay Trail
Photo by: Vivian Reed

Or even this:

A family of three enjoy an afternoon stroll at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Photo by: Vivian Reed

5. The Bay’s wetlands support our local economy by providing jobs in shipping, tourism, fishing, recreation, and education. 

A large cargo ship travels underneath the Bay Bridge toward the Port of Oakland.

Photo by: Dan Sullivan

We all need a healthy SF Bay. 7 Million Bay Area resides, 400 native species, our economy, and quality of life depend on it . Wetlands are vital to the health of wildlife and humans everywhere.

Help us restore and protect our wetlands by signing up for our volunteering programs today!

Restoration volunteers plant native seedlings into the ground
Photo by: Vivian Reed











Great news! Thanks to a groundswell of support, Bay Area voters will now have a chance to vote for a Clean and Healthy Bay this June. This is the greatest opportunity in a generation to restore our Bay for people, wildlife, and our economy. Are you in?

Take Action Now

King Tides Foreshadow Rising Seas

A man rides his bike slowly along the flooded bike path at Bothin Marsh, Marin, CA. The flooding is the result of the King Tides this past week.

Due to the slow but steady nature of ocean expansion, sea level rise has a tendency to be dismissed as a far-off predicament, not as an immediate threat. But with seas expected to rise 16 inches in the Bay Area by 2050, flooding 180,000 acres of coastline, the issue is now at our doorstep. Literally.

Last Thursday, sea levels peaked at over 10 feet in some places in the Bay Area during the highest King Tides event of 2012. The tides last week offered us a glimpse into the future of the California coastline: closing roads, flooding parking lots, and threatening to overwhelm levees from Marin to Santa Clara Counties.

A quarterly occurrence that reaches far back in history, the ultra-high King Tides are the result of a strong gravitational pull exerted by the Sun and the Moon – not climate change. But scientists say they offer important insight of how rising sea levels will impact coastal regions in years to come.

The combination of rapidly melting ice sheets and the thermal expansion of the ocean as it absorbs atmospheric and land-generated heat places sea level rise on an unstoppable trajectory that could raise the sea 16 feet in 300 years. Since experts agree that the reversal of rising seas is not possible, the risk for low-lying coastal areas will only increase. In the Bay Area, 81 schools, 11 fire stations, 9 police stations, and 42 healthcare facilities will be underwater or exposed to high flood events by 2100, when seas are expected to rise by 55-inches. Additionally, an estimated 270,000 people in the Bay will be at risk if no adaptive measures are taken – a 98 percent increase of those who are currently at risk.

Our approach to sea level rise must not mimic our approach to one-time natural disasters, such as hurricanes or earthquakes, in which we can recover and rebuild. Instead, the permanence of sea rise calls for a focus on adaption. It is more important than ever to propose plans to avoid the potential disaster of rising waters. One of the best solutions? Tidal marshland.

Tidal marsh and wetland habitat act as sponges during high tides, storm surges, and river flooding. They work to attenuate wave action that contributes to erosion. Since 40 percent of California’s land drains to the San Francisco Bay – contributing to longer-lasting flood events – wetlands have the substantial and crucial task of soaking up water from both land and sea.

Action now to protect and restore the Bay’s wetlands is essential and will help mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Many Bay Area residents are becoming part of the solution by volunteering their time to restore these protective marshes. Sign-up to volunteer with Save The Bay’s winter planting season!