2010 Bolsa Chica Wetlands Restoration Update
Since its restoration was completed in 2006, what changes have occurred in the Bolsa Chica wetland? Because the 367 acres of the Full Tidal Basin were an oil field for 66 years prior to their restoration, there are no baseline figures. However, within a year, the basin was thriving with life. Nineteen species of fish were identified in the basin in 2007, including California halibut, sand bass and other popular food species. The following year, 42 fish species were found. During the third year, 46 species were spotted. Juvenile forms were seen in nearly all the species, meaning the wetland is fulfilling one of its intended functions, a fish nursery. Benthic samples revealed a rich variety of invertebrate species, including crabs, octopus, shrimp, mussels, oysters, clams and other organisms that form the bottom of the wetland's food web.
Eel grass showed the most dramatic increase in the wetland's vegetation. In 2007 0.9 acres of eel grass were planted in the full tidal basin. By 2008 the plants had covered 2 acres, and in 2009, 32 acres. Eelgrass is important for stabilizing the basin bottom sand and as nursery grounds for many species of fish and shellfish. Cord grass planted along the eastern edge of the basin in 2007 showed an 89 percent increase by 2008, and it continues to propagate. Cord grass is essential for nesting of California Light Footed Clapper Rails, an endangered species, which have not nested in Bolsa Chica for several years.
Bird counts specific to the restored area are difficult to compare, since the birds move about the entire wetland. However, endangered and threatened species such as the Belding's Savannah Sparrow, the California Least Tern and the Snowy Plover are all nesting in great numbers in and around the newly restored area. In addition, large groups of cormorants, White and Brown Pelicans, Black Skimmers, terns, gulls and other species can be seen loafing on the sand bars in the full tidal basin.
It is clear that the goal of the restoration to provide a haven for resident and migratory birds as well as fish and other aquatic species has been successfully fulfilled.
The next comprehensive biological survey of the newly restored Bolsa Chica wetland is not scheduled until 2011.