San Francisco Bay wetlands, seasonal and tidal marshes between the historic low and high tide lines, are now highly fragmented because of development during the past 150 years. Artificial salt pond systems in the Bay are hypersaline and typically support simple assemblages of algae and invertebrates. In order to establish the value of salt ponds for migratory waterbirds, we used datasets to conduct a meta-analysis of avian communities in the baylands and salt ponds of San Pablo Bay. Fifty-three species of waterbirds in the salt ponds represented six foraging guilds: surface feeders, shallow probers, deep probers, dabblers, diving benthivores and piscivores. The total number of species and the Shannon-Weiner diversity index was higher in baylands than in salt ponds during all four seasons. However, overall bird density (number/ha) was higher in salt ponds compared with baylands in the winter and spring, primarily because of large concentrations of benthivores. Cessation of salt production in 1993 and subsequent reduction in water depth resulted in a decline of some diving duck populations that used the salt ponds.
Additional publication details
Avian communities in baylands and artificial salt evaporation ponds of the San Francisco Bay estuary