San Francisco, California, USA

The highly urbanized San Francisco Bay is a hotbed of eelgrass conservation and restoration. The MarineGEO observatory here provides a framework for tracking our successes over time, and may help to guide programs in other regions.  

The San Francisco Bay MarineGEO observatory was established in 2016 in partnership with San Francisco State University’s Estuary & Ocean Science Center. This collaboration has focused on characterization and comparisons of two paired natural and restored eelgrass beds: one of each in Richardson Bay (near Sausalito), and in central San Francisco Bay, the natural bed at Point Molate and the restored bed at the Marin Rod and Gun Club. Annual (summer) measures include plant growth parameters, as well as assessment of invertebrate communities on the plants following MarineGEO seagrass protocols. In the first two years, an investigation of nutrient and salinity across Richardson Bay, as well as tracking of rays and small sharks, helped to establish patterns of wildlife use and human influence. Since 2017, we have also conducted monitoring of additional natural eelgrass beds for greater spatial coverage in our understanding of baseline patterns and change. This work included comparisons of nearby unvegetated mudflats for three years (2017-2019) following an extreme low salinity period. The SF Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve maintains a water quality monitoring sonde within Richardson Bay. As an early partner site in a temperate estuary, protocols developed for monitoring and change detection, particularly in relation to restoration activities, are intended to serve as models for comparable sites as they are added to the MarineGEO program.  

MarineGEO Team

Participating Institutions

  • San Francisco State University’s Estuary & Ocean Science (EOS) Center, Tiburon, CA  
  • Sonoma State University, Santa Rosa, CA 
  • Smithsonian Environmental Research Center (Marine Invasions Lab based at the EOS Center) 
  • National Estuarine Research Reserve (headquartered at the EOS Center) 

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