What would the Bay be like without sharks?

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Often unfairly and inaccurately cast in movies as the violent villain of the deep, sharks play a starring role in maintaining the health of their ecosystem. So much so that their absence would drastically throw their habitat and food web entirely out of whack.

As an apex predator, their top down regulation of prey species indirectly benefits the habitat quality and availability. For example, sharks eat sea turtles, sea turtles eat seagrass, and numerous animals use seagrass as habitat. If sharks are not around to regulate the sea turtle population, then seagrass beds become overgrazed, effectively demolishing habitat and nursery areas for several species of fish and invertebrates.

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In other words, when sharks are present, they increase biodiversity in habitats as they prevent any one prey item from becoming too abundant. They also usually hunt fish that are slower and weaker, leaving the stronger, healthier fish to reproduce. This process can prevent the spread of devastating disease outbreaks and strengthen the prey species’ gene pool.

All in all, the loss of keystone species and release of predator regulation over prey populations results in a ripple effect through the food chain, upsetting the balance of a marine environment. Humans have already caused a major decline in shark numbers, and this same thing can happen here in San Francisco Bay.

What effect might the recent die off of hundreds of leopard sharks have on the Bay? What would happen to the sea lion population if there were no more white sharks patrolling the waters under the Golden Gate Bridge? One can speculate at the thought of these impacts on our Bay, or we can affect change through action.

Here are a few things you can do to help our local shark species thrive in San Francisco Bay:

  1. Volunteer to restore Bay wetlands: Often referred to as the “lungs of the Bay” our local wetlands help improve the Bay’s water quality, naturally protect communities from sea level rise, and provides nursery habitat for sharks and other wildlife that call the Bay Area home. Register for a Bay restoration event near you today!
  2. Reduce pollution at the source: Our Bay’s keystone species (among others) need a trash-free Bay to thrive. That’s why we’re now pressuring Bay Area cities to eliminate the flow of trash from city streets into the Bay by 2022, but it will take all of us to accomplish this ambitious goal. Take time to organize or volunteer for neighborhood cleanups, urge your local officials to prioritize stormwater projects, and if you haven’t already take the Zero Trash Pledge!

Notes from the Field | Joining the Restoration Family

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Nissa Kreidler is the newest member of our Habitat Restoration team.

It is so nice to meet you! My name is Nissa; I am the new Restoration Operation Specialist at Save The Bay. I have been having a wonderful time working with many of you at our restoration events around the bay, but would like to introduce myself to those of you out there I have yet to meet.

I come to Save The Bay after obtaining my degree in Ecology and Evolution from the University of California, Santa Cruz. While at UC Santa Cruz I worked on exciting research in marine conservation, including seagrass conservation in the Philippines.

While being an ecologist has lead me to amazing places like the Philippines, China, the Channel Islands, and the Mojave Desert, there’s no place like home. My fascination with the natural world around us began while I was growing up in Half Moon Bay. As a child I would make forts in the Coyote Brush (Bacharis pilularis) of the coastal bluff I grew up next to and spend hours in the tide pools at Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Nothing beats the rugged beauty of the San Francisco Bay and adjacent coastline. We house an array of beautiful flora and fauna here in the Bay Area and I love learning about our native plant communities along with the animals that call them home.

Luckily for me three wonderful women created Save The Bay 52 years ago. Sylvia McLaughlin, Kay Kerr, and Esther Gulick worked tirelessly to protect the natural beauty of the Bay. Thanks to the local movement they started, many parts of the San Francisco Bay Area are protected – including that coastal bluff I loved to explore as a child. Joining Save The Bay enables me to bring things full circle by saving wetland habitat that children today can discover.

I look forward to sharing my passion for the Bay with you and spending time together here on the blog or out in the field. Come join me on a restoration program and help Save the Bay for ourselves and future generations.