#MapMonday: The Wetlands of California's Central Valley

In honor of American Wetlands Month, we’re highlighting our brand new storymap on the Wetlands of California’s central valley. Wetlands support an astounding number and diversity of species. Across the U.S., over one-third of threatened and endangered species live exclusively in wetlands and almost half of all listed species depend on wetlands for at least part of their lives. Check out the map to learn more: http://dfnd.us/CAwetlandsmap

Click to view video transcript Naanibah: Hello everyone and welcome to another Map Monday!

This month we are celebrating American Wetlands Month!

Did you know that more than one third of our country’s threatened and endangered species live exclusively in wetlands? Wetlands are areas of land saturated with water for all or part of the year and are some of the most productive ecosystems in the world. Some wetlands, like vernal pools, fill with water in the winter and spring, creating beautiful concentric circles as the pools dry out.

Wetlands have many important functions like providing habitat for a wide variety of wildlife and plants; acting as natural water filters; providing flood protection; absorbing wind and tidal forces; and providing places of beauty and recreation.

Across the United States, wetland loss has been catastrophic since the beginning of colonialism. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that during a 200-year timespan, an average of over 60 acres of wetlands were lost every hour in the lower 48 states.

California’s wetland acreage has declined more than any other state, with only about 10% of historical wetlands remaining. Wetland loss in California’s Central Valley has been particularly harmful because of the key role this region plays for the 5 million migratory birds traveling the Pacific Flyway - a nearly 10,000-mile bird corridor that stretches from the west coast of South America up to the Arctic.

The Central Valley once contained an extensive network of wetlands, until they began being drained, dammed, and converted into cropland, pastures and subdivisions. Congress recognized the importance of these wetlands and passed the Central Valley Project Improvement Act, which is a federal law that, among other things, dedicates water supplies to Central Valley wetlands, including 19 Wildlife Refuges.

The refuges that Congress identified in this law provide some of the valley’s last-remaining wetland habitats and are essential to the well-being of the Pacific Flyway and several endangered species.

Let’s hear from our Water Policy Advisor and wetlands expert Rachel Zwillinger from our California Program to hear more about what Defenders is doing to protect wetlands.

Over to you Rachel!

Rachel: Thanks, Naanibah.

I’m at my local marsh to check out some birds and to underscore the importance of wetlands for California’s wildlife. Our wetlands provide habitat for shorebirds and waterfowl that migrate along the Pacific Flyway, juvenile Chinook salmon, endangered giant garter snakes, and so many other species.

They also provide wonderful recreational opportunities for bird watchers, hikers, and bug-hunting kids. Defenders is working to protect California’s wetlands by ensuring wetland wildlife refuges in California’s Central Valley receive the funding and water they need to support migratory birds, pursuing opportunities to conserve and restore additional wetland acres, encouraging wildlife-friendly agricultural practices and ensuring state regulations are implemented to halt wetland destruction.

If you ever find yourself in California’s Central Valley, I hope you will check out the amazing wetlands and wildlife refuges that are so important for the state’s wildlife.

Now back to you, Naanibah.

Naanibah: Thanks for sharing, Rachel!

If you want to read more about California’s Central Valley wetlands, check out our storymap!

Wetlands occur in all 50 states so there’s a very good chance that a wetland exists nearby for you to explore!

Thanks for watching and happy American Wetlands Month!

Naanibah Begay
CCI Coordinator

As the Coordinator for the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders, Naanibah assists with program work and provides support to the CCI team.