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  • Changes, losses to Southern California’s coastal wetlands documented in comprehensive new historical analysis

    August 27, 2014: SCCWRP and its collaborators have completed a multi-year effort to comprehensively document the extent of Southern California’s coastal wetland areas prior to urbanization in the mid-1800s and compare it to present-day conditions.

    The initiative, known as the Southern California T-sheets project, required overlaying 40 high-resolution historical maps of Southern California’s shoreline produced by federal officials with present-day maps to show how wetland areas have changed over time. The project was completed this month.

    The 40 topographical sheets, or T-sheets, span the 400-mile-long coastline of the Southern California Bight and were produced between 1851 and 1889 by the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey. Researchers digitized and georectified the T-sheets, then uploaded them to the project’s publicly accessible website,

    The study found that Southern California once had more than 330 individual coastal systems that provided over 25,000 hectares of estuarine habitat. But since the mid-19th century, 48% of Southern California’s coastal estuarine habitats have been lost, according to the study. Hardest hit was Santa Barbara County, where 62% of total estuarine habitats have disappeared. The study also found that vegetated marsh and salt and mud flats were disproportionately affected, experiencing higher losses of 75% to 78%.

    The study’s authors noted that the estimates were significantly different than previous estimates indicating that more than 90% of California’s wetlands have been lost. Researchers say this difference could be explained by the precision of the latest analysis, differences in the types and locations of wetlands included in the study area, and disproportionate impacts to certain types of wetland areas.

    Phase 1 of the T-sheets project, which was completed in early 2011, mapped 26 of the 40 T-sheets spanning the Southern California Bight. When funding for Phase 2 became available last year, the remaining 14 T-sheets were digitized, georectified and edge-matched. Additionally, researchers went back to the 26 original T-sheets and updated them for consistency, as well as mapped smaller drainage and channel systems. Phase 2 was completed this month; the key findings were summarized in SCCWRP Technical Report 826: “Wetlands of the Southern California Coast: Historical Extent and Change Over Time.”

    SCCWRP completed this project in collaboration with the San Francisco Estuary Institute and the Center for Geographical Studies at California State University, Northridge. The project’s funding came from the California State Coastal Conservancy, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California State Wildlife Conservation Board.

    For more information about the Southern California T-sheets project, contact Dr. Eric Stein.

    MAPPING: A total of 40 overlapping historical maps known as topographical sheets, or T-sheets, that span the 400-mile-long coastline of the Southern California Bight were digitized and georectified for the Southern California T-sheet project. The study provided a comprehensive snapshot of the extent of Southern California’s coastal wetland areas prior to urbanization in the mid-1800s.

  • SCCWRP scientist receives grant to present bilateral U.S.-India stormwater workshop

    August 11, 2014:

    SCCWRP hydrogeologist Dr. Ashmita Sengupta has won a competitive grant from the nonprofit Indo-US Science and Technology Forum to host a two-day workshop in India in January 2015 focusing on stormwater research.

    Titled “Transforming Stormwater into a Resource: Design, Risks and Benefits,” the workshop is one of seven proposals selected by IUSSTF to be funded for 2014-15. The grant winners were announced July 31.

    The annual IUSSTF workshops take place in either India or the United States, and span a wide variety of science and technology disciplines. IUSSTF’s goal is to promote interaction and collaboration between U.S. and Indian researchers in academia, R&D laboratories, industry and government.

    The workshop will explore large-scale best management practices for stormwater management, with a focus on new assessment tools, an integrated assessment framework and direct partnerships with implementing agencies.

    Collaborators from major U.S. and Indian universities, including the University of California, Irvine, and the Indian Institute of Technology, will be part of the workshop. 

    IUSSTF was established in 2000 via an agreement between the governments of India and the United States. The nonprofit society’s mission is to provide opportunities for exchanging ideas, information, skills and technologies and to facilitate collaborations on scientific and technological endeavors of mutual interest.

    Dr. Sengupta’s research at SCCWRP focuses on applying modeling techniques to evaluate and improve the efficacy and impact of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM) strategies, and to evaluate tradeoffs. She also models stress responses in receiving waterbodies due to watershed activities. For more information, contact Dr. Sengupta.

  • Researchers make recommendations on ocean hypoxia/acidification modeling

    August 08, 2014:

    A group of leading ocean academic researchers, state and federal managers and industry representatives has recommended that as scientists work toward creating hypoxia/acidification models that address West Coast management needs, they should start by using existing models and data and then collect additional observational data in support of model refinement.

    At a two-day modeling workshop held in December 2013 at the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project Authority headquarters in Costa Mesa, participants also agreed on the importance of assembling a community of modelers, observation researchers and managers to compare models and outcomes in a focused geographical region. The emphasis should be on collaboration that leads to integrated approaches, the participants noted.

    Workshop participants also recommended focusing on local anthropogenic nutrient inputs to improve the modeling baseline that will be needed to gauge regional susceptibility to hypoxia/acidification. 
    The workshop proceedings were released in July 2014 in a 22-page document titled “Modeling In Support of Management of Coastal Hypoxia and Acidification in the California Current Ecosystem.” 

    The authors of the workshop proceedings are Dr. Martha Sutula, head of SCCWRP’s Biogeochemistry Department; Dr. Meredith Howard, SCCWRP senior scientist; Dr. Larry Crowder, science director for the Center for Ocean Solutions; and Skyli McAfee, executive director for the California Ocean Science Trust.

    The abstract and full report are online. For more information, contact Dr. Martha Sutula

  • SCCWRP scientist to speak on ocean acidification during public lecture

    August 06, 2014: SCCWRP biogeochemist Dr. Karen McLaughlin will discuss how global climate change is altering the ocean’s chemistry during a public lecture hosted by the City of Newport Beach on Wednesday, August 6 at 7 p.m.

    During her two-hour presentation, Dr. McLaughlin will explain why the acidification of the ocean as a result of increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is putting many physiological and ecosystem processes at risk, including the ability of shellfish to form exoskeletons, corals to build reef habitats and certain types of plankton to form the base of the marine food web. 

    Dr. McLaughlin’s talk, part of the Orange County Natural History Lecture Series, will be held at the Back Bay Science Center in Newport Beach. 

    Dr. McLaughlin, a senior scientist at SCCWRP, studies nutrient cycling and source tracking in streams, estuaries and coastal waters. She holds a Ph.D. in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Stanford University.

    The lecture and parking are free; RSVPs to are requested. The Back Bay Science Center is at 600 Shellmaker Road, Newport Beach, CA 92660. Gates open at 6:30 p.m.

    SCCWRP's fact sheet on ocean acidification

  • SCCWRP recipient of Earth Day award

    June 27, 2014: The Southern California Coastal Water Research Project (SCCWRP) recently received an award honoring our accomplishments in coastal environmental protection from Philadelphia Insurance Companies (PHLY). Each year PHLY staff celebrates Earth Day by awarding money to help support an organization whose mission focuses on improving the natural environment. SCCWRP was nominated by the insurance company’s local office, which handles our account. For more information, please contact SCCWRP’s Administrative Officer Bryan Nece.