Much of the land in and around the Bay Area is marsh or wetland habitat. This is one of the most diverse of all habitats and sustains a variety of aquatic and land species including mussels, snails, worms and crabs. Wetlands habitats are important in that they act like a sponge, soaking up excess moisture and preventing it from flooding surrounding areas. In addition, special forms of algae and plant life found only in wetland areas are necessary for the maintenance of a clean water table. As water cycles through these areas, these plants remove harmful elements, thus filtering the water to keep it clean and safe.
Give the Birds a Rest!
One of the most important uses of wetlands in California is as a resting spot for many migratory birds as they head south for the winter. These birds are able to find much needed food, water and shelter in order to continue their migration, which can be thousands of miles! Although individual bird hunting is still practiced throughout the region, commercial hunting of waterfowl is illegal per a California law from 1923. Laws like these further protect the numerous waterfowl passing through California’s waterways.
As more and more people and companies move into the bay region, the wetlands are disappearing rapidly. We have already lost over 95% of the original wetland habitat here in California. Although the region appears to be a wonderful place to set up house, due to the instability of the earth, marshland is a very poor choice of land for development. Coupled with constant tectonic plate movements causing earthquakes and tremors, many areas are extremely unstable and even dangerous.
What You Can Do
So, how does one protect and preserve wetland habitat? Believe it or not, this is an easy one! Other than the obvious answer of not building upon marshland space, there is plenty to do. Making sure that garbage is disposed of properly goes a long way in preserving the water table. Oil, gasoline, and other chemicals dumped into storm drains on the street eventually make their way to the wetlands and destroy the fragile ecosystem. You can visit Sacramento Stormwater to find out how you can safely dispose of used oil, paint cans, and toxic products.
Who are the Wetland Dwellers?
Caspian Terns are the largest of the terns, comparable in size to the California Gull. They are found on five continents, both North American coasts, and inland around large bodies of water and other wetlands. The young are dependent on the parents for a long time, sometimes continuing even into their first winter. Their diet is mostly fish, which they often obtain in a spectacular dive from high above the water. This hunting technique leads them to favor protected water, as large waves affect the visibility of fish. They also sometimes eat insects or the eggs or young of other birds.
The Red-throated Loon inhabits the Arctic and is circumpolar. It migrates south along the coasts to the Mediterranean, China and northwestern Mexico come winter. Its habitats include tundra, lakes, bays, estuaries and oceans. Its diet consists of small fish, crustaceans and other aquatic life. It is a large swimming bird with a characteristic upturned dagger-like bill, large webbed feet that project like a rudder beyond the stubby tail and a hunched back appearance. Both sexes have the same plumage: in the summer, they have gray heads, plain backs and a rufous throat patch; while, in the summer, they have darker plumage and a paler head. The adult Red-throated Loon is 25 inches in length.
See other types of habitats by following the links on the right side of the page.