Monitoring the Marsh

As a major restoration effort, the project will be monitored for a variety of  parameters to help assess the success of the project.  The US Army Corps of Engineers is currently negotiating a contract to have standard parameters measured, for example cross sections of the channels and the amount of vegetation growing in the tidal areas.  Much of this work will be  done on a quarterly or annual basis and will make use of air photos and simple field instruments.  The monitoring plan, called the Monitoring and Adaptive Management Plan, is available on this website under “Documents”.Capture sturgeon

On the pollutant side, the project was constructed of sediment that is cleaner than the ambient bay (because most of it was from deepening of an existing shipping channel), but because of its pernicious nature, mercury is still of concern.  To address the mercury conundrum (marshes are good but marshes can also put mercury into the food-chain), the United States Geological Service (USGS) and the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) are monitoring mercury by sampling fish and birds.  Specifically small fish are caught in traps and whole tissues are analyzed. This is a good guage of the mercury problem because small fish, such as silversides and gobies, act as “bio-sentinels” and since they are prey for larger fish and birds, can be used to estimate food-chain effects. But because fish don’t frequent all parts of the marsh, scientists also monitor mercury in bird blood.  Samples are taken from song sparrows because they stick close to the marsh, feeding on marsh vegetation, and they are relatively abundant (a tiny bit of blood is taken and the bird released.  The data will be  compared to nearby marshes, like at China Camp, and to background stations throughout the bay, and measurements will be taken over a period of years to look for trends.   Interested in all the contaminant monitoring done in the Bay?  Check out the Regional Monitoring Program, part of SFEI.