The tidal wetlands ringing the shoreline of China Camp State Park are some of the healthiest of their kind in the San Francisco Bay Estuary. Once common throughout the region, salt marshes have been decimated by development, making the park’s vibrant tidal wetlands environmentally significant, ecologically valuable, and important to protect.
The benefits of salt marshes abound. Researchers have discovered that, as water flows from the mouth of the Sacramento Delta towards the the ocean through the Golden Gate, China Camp’s wetlands act as a massive natural filter. These tidal wetlands also reduce runoff and erosion, and provide protected “nurseries” for fish.
What’s more, salt marshes serve an essential role in trapping excess carbon deep within the mudflats, a critical step toward mitigating the causes of climate change. Global warming and its impacts pose numerous threats to salt marshes, including accelerated sea-level rise, erratic precipitation, erosion, and more frequent and intense storms.
Safe haven for endangered species
China Camp’s salt marshes provide protected habitat for wildlife, including two endangered species: the salt marsh harvest mouse (Reithrodontomys raviventris), listed on both federal and state endangered species lists, and Ridgway’s rail (Rallus longirostris obsoletus), a nearly flightless shorebird.
China Camp State Park is part of the San Francisco Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Check out the organization’s extensive website for information on wetland ecosystems and water quality. Also find details about educational programs for science teachers and local school groups.