The Liberty Island Conservation Bank (LICB) is a tidal freshwater marsh restored for the purpose of mitigating adverse effects on sensitive fish populations elsewhere in the region. The LICB was completed in 2012 and is in the northern Cache Slough region of the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. The wetland vegetation at the LICB is stunted and yellow-green in color (chlorotic) compared to nearby wetlands.
A study was done to investigate three potential causes of the stunted and chlorotic vegetation: (1) improper grading of the marsh plain, (2) pesticide contamination from agricultural and urban inputs upstream from the site, (3) nitrogen-deficient soil, or some combination of these.
Water samples were collected from channels at five sites, and soil samples were collected from four wetlands, including the LICB, during the summer of 2015. Real-time kinematic global positioning system (RTK-GPS) elevation surveys were completed at the LICB and north Little Holland Tract, a closely situated natural marsh that has similar hydrodynamics as the LICB, but contains healthy marsh vegetation.
The results showed no significant differences in carbon or nitrogen content in the surface soils or in pesticides in water among the sites. The elevation survey indicated that the mean elevation of the LICB was about 26 centimeters higher than that of the north Little Holland Tract marsh. Because marsh plain elevation largely determines the hydroperiod of a marsh, these results indicated that the LICB has a hydroperiod that differs from that of neighboring north Little Holland Tract marsh. This difference in hydroperiod contributed to the lower stature and decreased vigor of wetland vegetation at the LICB.
Although the LICB cannot be regraded without great expense, it could be possible to reduce the sharp angle of the marsh edge to facilitate deeper and more frequent tidal flooding along the marsh periphery. Establishing optimal elevations for restored wetlands is necessary for obtaining the full suite of ecosystem services provided by tidal wetlands.
A better system of tidal benchmarks throughout the delta is needed to help restoration practitioners correctly grade the elevation of newly restored wetlands.