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San Francisco Estuary

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San Francisco Estuary


San Francisco Estuary

        In order to improve water quality and protect the wildlife of the Estuary, the San Franciso Estuary Project began its efforts to restore the wetlands. The San Francisco Estuary’s watershed covers nearly 60,000 square miles of California, and although large the shallow estuary engulfs approximately 460 miles of open water (San Francisco Estuary Partnership, n.d.). Both the San Joaquin and Sacramento river supply roughly 90% of the fresh water going into the estuary, entering via the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (United States Environmental Protection Agency, 2016). The importance this estuary brings to California includes things such as recreational activities, fishing for the residential population, and commerce. The San Francisco Estuary not only benefits the flora and fauna that habitat the area, but also the impact it has on the human population is very beneficial.

        One large strain the San Francisco Estuary has encountered in the past years is the strain on resources due to the increasing human population. The waste and pollution from the increase of population is threatening the San Francisco Estuary’s ecosystems. The habitat has encountered and increase in destruction due to the industrial, commercial, mining, and agricultural activities.  Since nearly 80% of the marshes have been destroyed the carrying capacity for the waterfowl as well as other residing birds and mammals has lowered. This has led to a decline in certain fish and shellfish, after the reduction of marshes that house nurseries and feeding areas. Leaving the last of the marshes to maintain a higher population of flora and fauna, creating a higher amount of importance to preserve these areas (Cohen, 2000).

The increase in pollution and various sources of wastewater elevates the contamination levels for the marine life. This contamination threatens the biodiversity and brings rise to the risk of toxicity consumption in the San Francisco Bay area from fishing activities. Nearly half of the Estuary’s watershed region has been converted into rangeland and farms due to the increase in human population. With the increase in land changes and human population there has been a rise in the excretion of pollutants, mounting watershed concerns, and even the diversion of water has led to environmental concerns (Cohen, 2000).

 Humans have influenced different aspects of the San Francisco Estuary such as changing the water direction and flow, introducing pollutants into the ecosystem, and the destruction of the vegetated wetlands. In order to provide fuel and power for industry, homes, construction, and farmlands the woodlands along the Central Valley and Delta waterways were torn down. With the increase in farmlands and agricultural needs large areas of the estuary have been carved out (Cohen, 2000).

Agriculture diversion, water reservoir storage, and dams have changed the flow and direction of the water resulting in new patterns of fish migration and altered salinization, both of which hinder the survival of many marine and plant species. Some of the pollutants that were integrated into the San Francisco Estuary are the pesticide runoff from fertilizer, the contamination from raw sewage, and the runoff of mercury from the mines. With the increase of population comes the increase of contamination and pollution. In the 1950’s wastewater plants began to use treatment facilities in order to remove and maintain the sewage levels, following shortly after with better improvements in water quality, yet the estuary still encounters large amounts of waste dumped each year. Contaminates such as engine leaks from boats, agricultural runoff, accidental spills of compounds such as oils, and even air contamination are able to be absorbed by fish and other marine life, which threatens not only their population but other wildlife such as humans (Cohen, 2000).

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