College of Environmental Design Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning Iryna Dronova was part of a multi-institutional research team that was awarded a major grant from California’s Delta Stewardship Council last month.
Under the Delta Science Program -- an initiative that funds scientific research critical to establishing authoritative knowledge relevant to managing the Delta -- the 2019 Delta Science Competitive Research Awards provided $9.6 million in funding for 15 research projects in total.
The team, led by principal investigator Dr. Patty Oikawa (CSU East Bay) also included co-investigators Dronova, Sara Knox (University of British Colombia), Lisamarie Windham-Myers (U.S. Geological Survey), Brian Bergamaschi (U.S. Geological Survey), and Frank Anderson (U.S. Geological Survey).
Their proposal, titled “Tidal Wetland Restoration in the Bay-Delta Region: Developing Tools to Measure Carbon Sequestration, Subsidence Reversal, and Climate Resilience 2021” considers tidal marshes, vital ecosystems in the San Francisco Bay Delta. Not only do tidal marshes remove carbon from the atmosphere, but they also build up soils that buffer our communities from sea level rise, mitigate excessive nutrients (like nitrogen), and provide critical habitat and food resources for a diversity of species. However, it is difficult to predict how tidal marshes change naturally over time versus as a response to climate change, restoration, and water quality changes.
“Wetlands and particularly tidal marshes in California are highly productive ecosystems capable of taking up large amounts of atmospheric carbon and sequestering,” Dronova explains. “To date, this capacity has been studied very little so our project is tackling this important gap. Measuring this capacity and assessing is potential is very important for using wetland restoration in cap-and-trade programs and carbon markets; if wetlands can sequester carbon and help offset carbon emissions, it means that projects restoring wetlands and such functions can essentially facilitate carbon farming to help pay for such restoration efforts in the future.”
Their project provides the first ever multi-year dataset of the complete carbon budget of a tidal marsh. This dataset will be used to predict seasonal and annual carbon budgets in tidal marshes over a range of salinities. The model will assess the sustainability of existing and potential restored tidal wetland benefits over the next 100 years using remote sensing data. The model will be an open-source tool designed for use by wetland managers and decision-makers in the Bay-Delta region. “The central goal of this project is to develop a biogeochemical model for predicting this wetland function; however, to make regional estimates accurate we need to apply this model to different types of wetland sites in the area,” Dronova said.
Dronova’s expertise in remote sensing data will help the team find publicly available, repeatedly-collected satellite remote sensing datasets that highlight wetland ecosystem characteristics across the whole regional landscape including difficult-to-reach locations and significantly reduce the need for and the cost of field data collection.
“We will specifically use NASA's publicly available long-term satellite data archive, which allows monitoring seasonal and interannual changes in wetland vegetation and other surface properties,” Dronova explained. “We will use it as an input to such modeling to enable region-wide, especially explicit estimation of wetland ecosystem function and services.”