Estuaries represent critical aquatic habitats which form the connections between surface water distributed between Earth’s land masses and oceans.They are dynamic transitional ecosystems which provide important habitat for fishes and other aquatic organisms. The Pacific Coast of the conterminous United States has over 400 estuaries of various types.The largest, in terms of historical surface area, is the river-dominated San Francisco Estuary, California.Effective conservation of fishes inhabiting San Francisco Estuary and other systems requires knowledge of the habitat features which drive their abundance and distribution.“Physics to Fish” is a concept emerging from interdisciplinary research conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in the San Francisco Estuary which asserts that high-quality habitat for fishes is generated and sustained by the interaction between physical processes and the landscape. These interactions create a template for chemical and biological processes that can change across a variety of spatio-temporal scales.The physics to fish concept provides a suitable framework for developing scientific investigations, implementing management actions, and for prioritizing and conducting habitat restoration.Our research results suggest that restoration of suitable tidal wetland habitat on the west coast of the United States is likely to be an effective conservation tool to support estuarine fishes given that over 90% of historical tidal wetland habitat in San Francisco Estuary and 85% of vegetated wetlands along the Pacific Coast of the United States have been lost due to human modification. Given such sparse remnant tidal wetland habitat, re-establishing and restoring it to the degree possible in a framework based on reconciliation ecology is likely to generate meaningful and measurable conservation outcomes given the generality of abundance-habitat relationships in natural systems.Reconciliation-based strategies are especially applicable where humans compete with the natural world for habitat space and resources.In particular, the potential reward to be gained from reconciliation-based habitat restoration may be an effective intervention in the never-ending battle for finite water supplies raging between humans and the environment that is emblematic of the San Francisco Estuary and other stressed ecosystems throughout the world.
Speaker: Fred Feyrer, Research Fish Biologist, United States Geological Survey
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