Home > Explore Projects > Refining Ecosystem Model Inputs for Sea Level Rise Vulnerability in the San Francisco Bay Estuary
NCCOS Project

Refining Ecosystem Model Inputs for Sea Level Rise Vulnerability in the San Francisco Bay Estuary

This project began in January 2015 and is projected to be completed in December 2017

We are enhancing a locally relevant marsh model with new field data on the impacts of sea level rise to allow coastal managers to evaluate the vulnerability and inform restoration of San Francisco Bay tidal marshes.

Why We Care
Tidal marshes support important coastal food webs, improve water quality, and offer a buffer against storm and wave damage. Sea level influences the structure and function of coastal marshes in ways that alter the services provided.

What We Are Doing
We are collecting data to refine existing coastal management tools. Specifically, we are collecting data to meet three information needs of existing models:

  • Improved estuary-wide data on vegetation and marsh elevation, which will come in the form of estuary-wide LiDAR-derived data sets based on remotely sensed and on-the-ground vegetation and RTK GPS data.
  • An understanding of productivity and decomposition responses of tidal marsh plant species under a series of elevation and salinity gradients.
  • Sediment deposition rate based on plant species composition, season, storms, and tidal elevation to better parameterize marsh sea level rise models.

This research will provide managers of the San Francisco Bay Estuary with improved management tools, such as vegetation-corrected, digital elevation models (DEMs). DEMs are high-resolution, digital representations of the topographic landscape that coastal managers can use to better understand marsh vegetation structure and sediment dynamics to inform marsh restoration and augmentation planning.

What We’ve Accomplished
An NCCOS-led Story Map w​as ​published that will ​allow coastal managers to understand the science and visually evaluate wetland vulnerability to SLR​, continuing to influence how marshes are managed in the region, as described above.​ The Delta Stewardship Council has integrated these results into their Delta climate change planning work. Finally, the Sonoma Land Trust is using this information for their long term planning of the Petaluma River watershed, including informing land acquisition and restoration plans. The SF Estuary stakeholder group is using the findings to inform their Wetland Regional Monitoring Plan (WRMP) to develop monitoring metrics. The project led to ​9 peer-reviewed publications.

This project is led by Oregon State University and the U.S. Geological Survey, and is funded through the Ecological Effects of Sea Level Rise program.

Additional Resources

Click to expand resource list(s).

Products, Datasets & Reports

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Buffington K. J., C. N. Janousek, B.D. Dugger, J.C. Callaway, L. M. Schile-Beers, E. Borgnis Sloane, K. M. Thorne. 2021. Incorporation of uncertainty to improve projections of tidal wetland elevation and carbon accumulation with sea-level rise. PLoS ONE 16(10): e0256707. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0256707

Buffington, K. J., B. D. Dugger and K. M. Thorne. 2018. Climate-related variation in plant peak biomass and growth phenology across Pacific Northwest tidal marshes. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 202: 212-221.  https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecss.2018.01.006

Buffington, K. J., B. D. Dugger, K. M. Thorne and J. Y. Takekawa. 2016. Statistical correction of lidar-derived digital elevation models with multispectral airborne imagery in tidal marshes. Remote Sensing of Environment 186: 616-625. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rse.2017.11.016

Buffington, K. J., C. N. Janousek, K. M. Thorne and B. D. Dugger. 2020. Spatiotemporal Patterns of Mineral and Organic Matter Deposition Across Two San Francisco Bay-Delta Tidal Marshes. Wetlands 40: 1395-1407.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s13157-019-01259-3

Goodman, A. C., K. M. Thorne, K. J. Buffington, C. M. Freeman and C. N. Janousek. 2018. El Niño Increases High-Tide Flooding in Tidal Wetlands Along the U.S. Pacific Coast. Journal of Geophysical Research: Biogeosciences 123(10): 3162-3177.  https://doi.org/10.1029/2018JG004677

Janousek, C., B. Dugger, B. Drucker and K. Thorne. 2020. Salinity and inundation effects on productivity of brackish tidal marsh plants in the San Francisco Bay-Delta Estuary. Hydrobiologia 847: 4311-4323.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s10750-020-04419-3

Janousek, C. N., K. M. Thorne and J. Y. Takekawa. 2018. Vertical Zonation and Niche Breadth of Tidal Marsh Plants Along the Northeast Pacific Coast. Estuaries and Coasts. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-018-0420-9

Janousek, C. N. and C. L. Folger. 2018. Does National Wetland Inventory class consistently identify vegetation and edaphic differences in Oregon tidal wetlands? Wetlands Ecology and Management 26(3): 315-329.  https://doi.org/10.1007/s11273-017-9575-6

Jones, Scott F., Christopher N. Janousek, Michael L. Casazza, John Y. Takekawa and  Karen M. Thorne. 2021. Seasonal impoundment alters patterns of tidal wetland plant diversity across spatial scales. ECOS{HERE 12 (2), e03366. https://doi.org/10.1002/ecs2.3366




News & Feature Stories

Explore Similar Projects
No posts found.


NCCOS delivers ecosystem science solutions for stewardship of the nation’s ocean and coastal resources to sustain thriving coastal communities and economies.

Stay Connected

Sign up for our quarterly newsletter or view our archives.

Follow us on Social

Listen to our Podcast

Check our our new podcast "Coastal Conversations"