Wetland restoration could be a blueprint for how California adapts to climate change

December 08, 2021

The restored Dutch Slough wetlands, part of an ambitious project to restore almost 1,200 acres of delta farmlands, is already showing success in creating wildlife habitat and helping California become more resilient to climate change.

Wetlands can help because they lessen destruction from flooding caused by storms and sea level rise and absorb carbon from the atmosphere and store it long term.

The lab of Professor Dennis Baldocchi studies carbon sequestration in freshwater tidal marshes, including the Dutch Slough wetland. Their work was featured in an article in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this week. 

“You can put carbon in forests, where it can get burned,” said Baldocchi in the article. “But if you put it in wetlands, it can stay a very long time. The limitation is we have a limited amount of land area we can convert.”

Dylan Chapple, PhD ’17 ESPM, who is now a senior environmental scientist at the Delta Stewardship Council, commented on the need for the state to move quickly with more wetland restoration projects, especially to combat sea level rise. 

“Every year matters,” said Chapple about the urgency to move wetland restoration projects along. “Wetlands are a really critical nature-based infrastructure. The sooner they can get in the ground, the more they can persist.” 

In a recent post on the Berkeley Blog, Professor Baldocchi discusses the multi-faceted role of restored wetlands in the Bay Area. He explains why California’s wetlands have special abilities to be effective and long-term carbon sinks and covers the negative and positive consequences of restoring wetlands in the Bay Area. In conclusion, he writes “In the end, restoring wetlands can be viewed as an effective arrow in our quiver of Natural Climate Solutions. What is more effective is stopping carbon emissions, tout suite. If we don’t put carbon into the atmosphere, we won’t need to take it out.”