John Callaway (left), associate professor of environmental science, and research assistant Evyan Borgnis '08 (right), prepare soil samples as part of their research.
With the federal government intent on addressing global warming and
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger calling for carbon-trading
caps, a study underway at the University of San Francisco could turn
the tide in the struggle to restore Bay Area wetlands that capture
greenhouse gasses from the atmosphere.
The research, led by John
Callaway, associate professor of environmental science, is meant to
measure how much carbon is captured and stored by tidal wetlands, as
well as how rapidly sediment accumulates across wetlands with varying
The two-year $300,000 study, funded by The Gordon
and Betty Moore Foundation – which was established in 2000 to advance
environmental conservation and cutting-edge scientific research around
the world and improve the quality of life in the San Francisco Bay Area
– could change the funding fortunes for 40,000 acres of Bay Area
wetlands targeted for restoration in the coming years.
these huge expanses of wetlands will permanently reshape San Francisco
Bay and will play a significant role in improving habitat quality,
water quality, and mitigation for sea-level rise,” Callaway said.
and his research team, including Evyan Borgnis ’08, are extracting soil
core samples at a depth of 50 centimeters in salt marshes and 100
centimeters in brackish marshes from seven natural wetland and five
restored wetland sites around the Bay Area. A total of 45 core samples
will be taken, multiple from each site, which range from Palo Alto in
the south to Benicia in the north, as a means to gauge the age, type of
sentiment, and the amount of stored carbon.
Undertaken in December 2008, the study is slated to be complete by early 2011.
so little known about how much carbon is stored in Bay Area wetlands or
how quickly sediment accumulates, the build up of which is largely
responsible for carbon sequestration, the study’s results will lay the
groundwork for establishing the value and cost of restoring wetlands,
as well as identify how vulnerable Bay Area wetlands may be to
sea-level rise. Data collected from the study will be shared with the
California Climate Action Registry (CCAR), a nonprofit that serves as a
voluntary greenhouse gas (GHG) registry to protect and promote early
actions to reduce GHG emissions.
“This will allow (CCAR) to
determine rates of emission reduction credits for restoration
activities,” Callaway said. “It is anticipated that this type of
‘carbon trading’ will become more and more important as efforts to
reduce greenhouse gas emissions are intensified.”
wetlands’ carbon sequestration capacity will not only make it possible
to establish accurate carbon credits for restoration activities, but
will also provide opportunities for restoration funding as companies
and organizations consult the registry in their attempts to obtain
carbon credits by funding restoration work.