Wetlands & Estuaries. Top: Drakes Estero; Photo Credit: Jessica Weinberg, NPS
Lower Left: Giacomini Wetland; Photo Credit: Jessica Weinberg, NPS
Lower Right: Giacomini Wetland; Photo Credit: Jessica Weinberg, NPS

Where freshwater streams meet saltwater they form estuaries—one of the most fertile habitats on earth. These rich habitats provide spawning grounds for crabs and numerous fish species, and are a vital stopping point for migratory ducks and shorebirds as they fly thousands of miles up and down the Pacific Flyway.

The shores of an estuary are often fringed with wetlands—a generic term used to describe a variety of habitats where the land is at least sometimes covered with water. Salt marshes are a particular kind of wetland that occurs in saline environments like near estuaries or bays, while common freshwater wetlands can include marshes and swamps typical of the upper Sacramento – San Joaquin River Delta. In both kinds of wetlands, submerged and partially submerged vegetation provide food and refuge for a myriad of species and capture sediment and pollutants. Development has claimed much of the wetland habitat in the Bay Area, but a number of restoration projects, including those spearheaded by the National Park Service and its partners at Crissy Field, Drakes Estero, Muir Beach, and the Giacomini and Banducci farms are attempting to reverse that trend.