In last week’s blog I talked about a couple different survey techniques that the Fisheries Crew and I had been using while out in the field. I mentioned that we were (at the time) working on a project referred to as “Giacomini Sampling”. This sampling project was part of the 10th anniversary survey of the Giacomini Wetlands Restoration Project, marking one decade since the wetlands were restored.

The Fisheries Crew and I have since completed our sampling surveys for this year, but I’d like to dedicate this week’s blog to explaining more about this project, its importance, and the implications to both the environment and the community!

Map of Point Reyes National Seashore, CA and the Giacomini wetlands area (shown in yellow circle); map designed by the National Park Service.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GIACOMINI WETLANDS RESTORATION PROJECT

  • 1800’s – Settlers began immigrating to West Marin, building farms and ranches along the spacious grasslands.
  • 1940 – Waldo Giacomini – owner of the largest and most productive dairies in Marin County, Giacomini Ranch – began diking the south end of Tomales Bay to increase pasture-lands as his farm expanded to produce milk for the war efforts (WWII).
  • 1940’s & Onward – In the decades following the construction, citizens of Marin county began noticing negative impacts to the environment, such as: increased sedimentation, an increased presence of pollutants, and a decrease in species diversity.
  • 2000-2007 – Giacomini Ranch is purchased by the National Parks Service; fundraising and planning for the restoration – a project titled the “Giacomini Wetlands Restoration Project” – begins.
  • 2007– Restoration begins! Phase I of construction (demolition of buildings, removal of levees and other agricultural infrastructure, removal of invasive/non-native plants, etc.).
  • 2008 – The final and largest phase of the project begins, Phase II of construction (revegetation and removal of invasive flora, removal of levees, realignment of creeks, etc.).

GOAL: to restore the natural hydrologic and ecological processes/functions of the wetlands and increase the sustainability of the ecosystems so that they can operate within present-day watershed conditions.

Priscilla Sisommout (left) and Michael Reichmuth (right) seining at one of the survey sights; Photo by Katlyn Fuentes.

SO WHAT NOW?

Though the bulk of the restoration project might be over, the work isn’t done yet! Further monitoring, like the sampling the Fisheries Crew and I just completed, is necessary to ensure that both plants and animals are returning to the wetlands. Point Reyes National Seashore and the Point Reyes National Seashore Association will continue  fundraising to expand current restoration work within the marshlands. Additionally, the active eradication of invasive plants and the subsequent revegetation of the area will be necessary until all invasive species have been removed from the area.

SOME OF THE FISHES THAT WE OBSERVED DURING OUR SURVEYS: (*endangered; **invasive)

Myself with a topsmelt (Atherinops affinis); Photo by Adelaide Robinson.

  • Coho Salmon* (Oncorhynchus kisutch)
  • Three-Spined Stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus)
  • Bay Pipefish (Sygnathus leptorhynchus)
  • California Roach (Hesperoleucus symmetricus)
  • Arrow Gobies (Clevelandia ios)
  • Yellowfin Gobies** (Acanthogobius flavimanus)
  • Starry Flounder (Platichthys stellatus)
  • Pacific Staghorn Sculpin (Leptocottus armatus)
  • Topsmelt (Atherinops affinis)
  • Sunfish** (Lepomis sp.)

Conducting seining surveys at one of the sites within the restoration area; from left to right: Brentley McNeill, Adelaide Robinson, & Michael Reichmuth; photo by Katlyn Fuentes

WHY THIS PROJECT MATTERS

Despite the ecosystem benefits of reverting these pastures back to wetlands, there are (understandably) members of the community who mourn the loss of the dairy farm – a family-run business once considered to be a source of pride for many within Marin County. And while it’s ok to reminisce in the nostalgia of local history, it’s important to realize that this restoration project will continue benefit both the environment and the community for generations to come.

BENEFITS TO THE RESTORATION

  • Increase available habitat for wildlife
  • Increase nursing grounds for both marine and anadromous species
  • Decrease sedimentation
  • Decrease the amount of pollutants flowing downstream
  • Increase sustainability of the marsh
  • Increase biodiversity
  • Alleviate severity of flooding (in this region)

Giacomini wetlands; photo by Katlyn Fuentes

IMPLICATIONS TO THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE COMMUNITY

Though the current state of these wetlands varies from those of the 1860’s, this region of the estuary – the “transitional zone” – will continue to naturally shift over time as it adapts to our changing climate and the current watershed. And as one of the largest restoration projects ever attempted in recent history, the culmination of years of hard work and dedication are a sight to behold. This momentous feat has restored over 550 acres of pasturelands back to wetlands – an area encompassing more than 50% of the total expanse of Tomales Bay wetlands. This move is critically important for federally endangered species (like coho salmon), who once used the marshes as habitat and now have the opportunity to return.

All of this has been made possible and will continue to be made possible by the work of many dedicated individuals within the National Parks Service, the Point Reyes National Seashore Association, and a plethora of volunteers from the community! If you would like to get involved with restoration and conservation efforts in the future, I urge you to consider contacting your local national or state park and see what opportunities they have to offer!

In the coming months, I’ll be delving more into the ecological benefits of this restoration project as I begin researching and comparing the survey data collected this year to those of previous years. Not only are we hoping to see a continuation of the increase in species diversity and abundance, but also an increase in water quality as well!

If you have any questions or comments for me regarding this project or other work that we’re doing here at Point Reyes National Seashore, feel free to leave me a message in the comment box below.

Until next time,

-Katlyn

For more information on the project and the upcoming anniversary celebration, check out the links below:

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Written by Katlyn Fuentes
Katlyn is an Aquatic and Fishery Sciences major and Anthropology minor at the University of Washington in Seattle. This summer she will be working as a Mosaics in Science intern with the National Park Service at Point Reyes National Seashore in California, assisting with the ongoing San Francisco Area Network Coho and Steelhead Monitoring Program. After completing this internship and graduating with her B.S., she plans on pursuing a career in conservation and management of natural resources.