Our sparkling body of water crowned by the Golden Gate Bridge is now formally recognized as a “Wetland of International Importance.” As of February 2, 2013, the Ramsar Convention, an international treaty committed to wetland preservation, officially selected the San Francisco Bay as a wetland deserving of international recognition for conservation purposes. The treaty acknowledges the ecosystem services provided by the Bay’s wide range of aquatic habitats from tide pools to fish ponds.
The importance of the San Francisco Bay extends beyond its provision of habitat to over 1,000 species of mammals, birds, invertebrates and 130 species of fish. The economic, scientific and recreational value of the Bay to local residents augments the importance of its protection. This wide array services provided by the Bay is part of the winning argument made by the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture, a collaboration of public and private stakeholders with interest in wetland restoration, who have been advocating for four years to receive this recognition.
Clearly exciting news, some of us may still be wondering what are the tangible conservation implications for this international recognition. Beth Huning, Coordinator of the San Francisco Bay Joint Venture, says that though the formal recognition does not officially create any legally binding protections for the Bay, “it does focus international pressure on agencies to step up conservation efforts and may lead to additional funding for wetland restoration.” By elevating the status of the Bay through dedicated advocacy, it is likely to receive greater attention for restoration projects.
While this achievement is certainly a time for celebration, it is also a crucial time to continue asking what are the various conservation challenges in the San Francisco Bay. Huning cites expanding urbanization, invasive species, and projected sea level rise as just a few factors that still threaten our beloved Bay’s stability.
The good news: you do not have to be a wetland expert or an international treaty writer to make a difference! As everyday community members we can take part in conservation and preservation efforts by getting involved with organizations that support wetland restoration like The Watershed Project. Huning also recommends staying conscious of bringing pets into wildlife habitats and voting to support future ballot measures that include funding for restoration. Finally, you can learn more about opportunities to help and your role in the preservation of wetlands at www.yourwetlands.org.