Letter from the Editor – Sean Bergquist
In this issue of Urban Coast, we consider the many impacts to our coastal areas as well as the health and access implications, community understanding, and restorative actions. In Southern California, the greatest impacts have been to our coastal wetlands, where we have lost over 90% of the historic extent (See page 61). Unique landforms, mountains plunging into the sea, and intermittent stream flows have placed these rare habitats in direct conflict with development. Coastal wetlands were initially filled for agricultural production, but as the population grew, urban development, ports, and harbors further consumed these habitats. The good news is that each of the remaining wetlands has some form of action plan in place, either in the conceptual design or the implementation phase. However, the results of these plans may not provide the ecological functions comparable to those that historically existed. The costs associated with restoring coastal habitat are extreme. Real estate and construction costs put restoration out of reach of all but the largest agencies (e.g., ports) or businesses (e.g., power facilities), none of which are practiced in the field of restoration.
Today, the driving force compelling large organizations (ports, power facilities, etc.) to get involved in, and spend dollars on, the restoration of coastal wetlands is their need to mitigate for recent impacts. As we look back in the historical record, we see wetlands dominated by salt marsh and mudflat habitats (See page 54) dotting the Southern California coast. With few of these habitats remaining, impacts are now concentrated in near-shore, open-water habitats such as harbors, ports, and power facilities, followed by increased desalination efforts. This is creating conflict. Resource agencies and regulators are setting standards for mitigation that directly conflict with ecologically sound restoration practices. Agencies are often hamstrung by strict laws requiring mitigation of similar habitats at or near the existing impacts and narrowly focused agency mandates for high value ecosystem services – such as commercial fish production – rather than ecosystem functions.
The result is that large, well-funded organizations are leading restoration projects in need of their funding. These organizations are directed by no-net-loss mandates and are forcing habitats that achieve their mitigation needs into the few remaining spaces that persist on the coast. While coastal California is achieving significant gains in fish production and protected open-water habitats, we are missing critical opportunities to restore lost ecological functions — opportunities that we may never regain. As remaining impacted and degraded lands are restored to compensate for impacts to open-water habitats, opportunities to restore salt marsh, mudflats, and other associated habitats are permanently lost.
The solution requires a more holistic approach by agencies that control mitigation dollars, with greater flexibility to look further back in time, to habitats lost when our urban coast was first developed, rather than just their current impacts (See page 85). Resource agencies and regulators should focus on improving regional ecosystems and the rarest, most impacted, or most ecologically valuable habitats. This may require allowing restoration that is not in-kind. The extremely rare and impacted habitats of coastal wetlands should be highly valued, and restoration of ecosystem functions should be encouraged. Without this regional ecosystem-based approach we will continue to lose valuable habitats in the name of mitigation, instead of development.
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Letter from the Director: “In Science We Trust…Maybe” – Shelley Luce (119 KB)
Bringing Nature Back to Our Cities – Mark Ridley-Thomas (305 KB)
Sustainable Seafood in the United States – Mark Helvey, Jennier Ise, and Heidi Taylor (392 KB)
California Sustainable Seafood Initiative – Samuel Schuchat (299 KB)
Responsible Seafood Sourcing: A Distributor’s Perspective – Logan Kock & Mary Smith (683 KB)
Bridging the Market Gap: Working with Fishermen for Sustainable Seafood and Communities – Ariana Pitchon (276 KB)
RESEARCH AND POLICY
Public Perceptions of Coastal Resources in Southern California – Sean Anderson (703 KB)
Adapting and Adopting Rapid Molecular Methods for Beach Water Quality Monitoring – Karen Setty (319 KB)
Historical Ecology as a Living Resource for Informing Urban Wetland Restoration – Shawna Dark, Eric D. Stein, Danielle Bram, and Joel Osuna (507 KB)
Wetland Health and Assessment: An Information Inundation at the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve – Karina Johnston (502 KB)
Coastal Stewards Program: Diversifying Environmental Education – Carrie Samis (340 KB)
Filiorum: A Dream Fulfilled – William Ailor (461 KB)
The Complexity of Urban Tidal Wetlands Restoration Projects Exemplified at Colorado Lagoon – Eric Zahn (567 KB)
Sustainable Infrastructure: The Elmer Avenue Neighborhood Retrofit – Edward Belden, Michael Antos, Kirsty Morris, and Nancy L.C. Steele (542 KB)
ENVIRONMENTAL NOTES AND ABSTRACTS
Notes and Abstracts (364 KB)