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Community works to protect San Diego coastal ecosystem

Posted on January 3, 2024

SAN DIEGO — A community is coming together to protect a San Diego coastal ecosystem.

For the people working to clean up Agua Hedionda Lagoon, the area is more than just a beautiful body of water.

Carlos Callado said it’s a protection against climate change. He’s part of the conservation group Wildcoast, which organized the work day as part of an effort to help protect and preserve coastal areas that have the potential to assist in the battle against climate change.

“In the event of sea level rise, this is an area for salt marsh to migrate upwards,” Callado said. “On top of that, before the sea level rise issue comes up, we have wonderful habitats for local birds, mammals, insects.”

Just as the lagoon could someday protect the community, the community is working to protect the lagoon. The team is restoring native plants, pulling invasive weeds, and preventing erosion by building better drainage systems and reinforcing the slope.

Samantha Richter with the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation said this kind of work is priceless when protecting urban wild spaces, especially when fighting the battle against invasive plant species.

“With these flowering petals and all the pollen, they can spread, they can move up the bluff, and they can choke out the native species,” Richter said.

The crew also worked to pick up any trash and remove any “ghost gear,” which is any fishing gear that’s abandoned, lost, or discarded in aquatic environments.

“It is a very big environmental problem when it’s left behind,” Richter said. “All sorts of animals, particularly birds, can get caught in it.”

Callado said the lagoon is a “blue carbon” ecosystem. It can store two to five times as much carbon as terrestrial ecosystems, which means the lagoon can help keep climate-warming carbon out of the atmosphere while also creating a buffer as sea levels rise.

He hopes work days like this encourage everyone to protect these precious habitats.

“It helps create a public that wants to be a part of solutions,” Callado said.


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