August 1, 2013

Keystone Species Signify Healthy S.F. Bay Waters

Efforts to restore tidal marshes in the San Francisco Bay are having significant, positive impacts on marine life, according to UC Davis researchers.  Former industrial salt ponds that have been reopened to the bay waters are once again home to large numbers of leopard sharks—mostly due to the large buffet of worms, crabs and fish they can find there. 

Population numbers for the leopard sharks aren’t steadfast, but scientists are reporting spotting up to 30 sharks per hour along the shallow south bay waters, according to the Mercury News

Leopard sharks can grow up to 6 feet long and are known for their characteristic dark saddle-type markings. They are known to be quite skittish and can be easily spooked by divers as they glide about the sandy and muddy flats that they prefer. 

Sharks, as with most large predators, are considered to be keystone species so their reappearance is particularly important to researchers and ocean conservationists who began restoring the wetlands five years ago. Reopening the former commercial salt ponds is the largest West Coast wetlands restoration ever and it has been amazingly successful. Tidal waters are able to flow in and out of more than 3000 acres of what was previously closed off ponds. 

The area has undergone an immense transformation in a short five years. The collaborative efforts of government agencies, conservancies and concerned citizens are clearly taking effect as the numbers of species return.  This habitat that suffered from years of industrialization and human interference is now thriving thanks to dedication and conservation proving that nature can be repaired if given the chance.

We know the importance of leopard sharks. They are year-round residents of Elkhorn Slough, which signifies a flourishing and healthy marine habitat with a large variety of life! Save Our Shores supports the tidal marsh restoration project in San Francisco Bay and we are excited to see the continuation of positive results.

picture via thesharksideoflife,com

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