New book on Suisun Marsh by NRS Director


One of California’s most remarkable wetlands, Suisun Marsh is the largest tidal marsh on the West Coast and a major feature of the San Francisco Estuary. This productive and unique habitat supports endemic species, is a nursery for native fishes, and is a vital link for migratory waterfowl. The 6,000-year-old marsh has been affected by human activity, and humans will continue to have significant impacts on the marsh as sea level rises and cultural values shift in the century ahead.

By providing an accessible overview of the region’s ecology through the expert eyes of leading Bay/Delta scientists, Suisun Marsh: Ecological History and Possible Futures fills a void in the literature available on this unique ecosystem. They provide a thorough analysis of Suisun Marsh’s ecological riches, as well as a  clear-eyed view of how management choices will influence the fate of the marsh in decades to come.

The volume was edited by Peggy L. Fiedler, Director of the UC Natural Reserve System, is a noted conservation biologist and authority in the ecology and management of rare plants; Peter B. Moyle is an expert on California fishes and a professor of fisheries biology at UC Davis; and Amber Manfree, a PhD student in geography at UC Davis, who studies the historical ecology of the region.

A video featuring Manfree discussing Suisun Marsh is available at Planning for the invevitable at Suisun Marsh on the California WaterBlog, published by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

Book review:

Suisun Scenarios Outed

by Ariel Rubissow Okamoto, reprinted from Estuary News

Ever since I began writing about the San Francisco Bay estuary, people have been telling me to pay more attention to Suisun Marsh. But whenever I started in on a story, it was hard to find good information. Suisun Marsh: Ecological History and Possible Futures puts it all in one place. All the top scientists weigh in on everything from rare plants and elusive butterflies to how floods and droughts shaped this landscape in the past, and promise to do so in the future. Edited by Peter Moyle, Amber Manfree and Peggy Fiedler, the book debuts this spring out of the University of California Press.

For years, Suisun Marsh has been near the top of California’s list of places to save. It’s in the middle of everything; the biggest, wildest, most open space in the watershed between the Sierra and the sea; the refuge of endangered thistles and voles. It’s where fresh meets salt water, where species adapted to extreme swings in conditions thrive, and where engineers and duck hunters have long toiled to attract waterfowl. It’s a landscape that has been in and out of the water for millennia, with a long history of human micromanagement. To explore Suisun’s story, the book begins with dry but foundational science chapters on hydrology, sediment, vegetation, climate, and species. It then tells the tale of how the marsh and the water flowing through it have been managed to attract ducks. It also covers how choices were made about building roads, bridges, and infrastructure, and details water quality, salinity, and flow policies governing the marsh.

Closing chapters lay out several scenarios for the future. Some pin their hopes on this marsh as a refuge for endangered species retreating from sea level rise, and others see it as a flood management tool or a vital midpoint in a habitat corridor connecting Bay and Delta. But the authors argue that Suisun Marsh could be much more: a grand experiment, perhaps, in fostering novel ecosystems where aliens and natives, and even a few duck hunters, all flourish. Now that this book is out, those of us writing about how Suisun’s future unfurls will have an excellent reference.