Landscape Change and Vegetation Influences: Preliminary Monitoring of the Tijuana River Estuary, San Diego, CA

Authors: Adriana Martinez*, Southern Illinois University -Edwardsville, Suzanne C. Walther, University of San Diego
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Geomorphology
Keywords: estuary, vegetation, roughness, modeling, GIS
Session Type: Illustrated Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Canal St. Corridor, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

As we begin to understand how various ecological systems respond to climate change, including storm frequency and severity, and sea level rise, it is clear that particularly fragile ecosystems are most at risk. Estuaries, like the Tijuana River Estuary (TRE) in San Diego, are especially vulnerable because they exhibit specific thresholds with respect to elevation above sea level given their standing between freshwater and saltwater boundaries. Within the TRE we conducted preliminary exploratory research to determine estuary path changes over time via aerial photographs going back as far as 1939. We also examined high and low elevation habitat changes going back as far as 1995. In addition, we examine vegetation distribution within the TRE in contemporary times and model how this vegetation may be affecting sediment deposition along channel reaches within the estuary. We hypothesize that given species abundances and cover along the channels, sediment deposition may outpace sea level rise as large amounts of sediment are supplied from the upper, disturbed, reaches of the drainage basin that are primarily located in urban areas in Tijuana, Mexico. Such changes could ultimately influence vegetation species composition which may have an effect on bird populations throughout the estuary. In particular, the endangered light-footed clapper rail (Rallus lonirostris levipes) and Belding’s Savannah sparrow (Ammodrammus sandwichesis beldingi) nest in vulnerable areas of the estuary.

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