Long-term assessment of ecological degradation of a large coastal wetland system in Los Angeles, CA

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Karina Alvarez and Karina Johnston

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Coastal wetlands are unique transitional areas containing diverse organisms adapted to living in the dynamic interface between fresh and salt water; however, the proximity of these systems to coastal development increases impacts. In southern California, anthropogenic stressors have resulted in a 75 98% loss of estuarine habitat. Remaining habitats suffer from various levels of degradation, as in the case of the 577-acre Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve (Reserve). More than a century of anthropogenic impacts has altered distribution, extent, and nativity of vegetation communities. However, the Reserve is the largest opportunity for coastal wetland restoration in the Los Angeles region. This project’s objective is to increase knowledge of the long-term functioning of this degraded estuarine wetland to inform adaptive management and restoration. Data evaluated for this study include long-term assessments of jurisdictional wetland extent (and loss), California Rapid Assessment Method (CRAM) scores (standardized condition assessment), and species-level vegetation cover surveys and mapping. Mapping vegetation associations over time provides data on species invasions and the nativity of areas. Overall, altered hydrology and topography have reduced salt marsh habitat availability and significantly modified the ecological community, including reduced wetland extent. Site-wide trends demonstrate that many areas suffer from high degrees of invasion by habitat-altering plants such as Carpobrotus edulis. CRAM surveys found that average scores declined over the study period. Wetland delineation surveys found that approximately a quarter of the site is considered delineated wetland, and an even smaller portion is exposed to tidal influence. These data will be used in restoration planning

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program