Salt Marsh Reduces Fecal Indicator Bacteria Input to Coastal Waters in Southern California
Ambrose, Richard F.
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We investigated fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) concentrations in water and sediment from Carpinteria Salt Marsh, a medium-sized (93 ha), mostly natural southern California coastal wetland. High FIB concentrations, exceeding recreational water quality standards, were found at inlet sites after winter storm events and during a summer dry weather sampling event. Runoff entering the wetland had the highest concentrations of FIB after large rain events and after rain events following extended periods without rain. The watersheds with the greatest agricultural and urban development draining into the wetland generally contributed the highest loads of FIB, while the largest and least developed watershed contributed the lowest FIB concentrations. Surface water exiting the wetland at the ocean contained relatively low concentrations of FIB and only exceeded recreational water quality standards after the largest rain event of the year. Bacterial concentrations in sediment were only elevated after rain events, suggesting wetland sediment was not a reservoir for bacteria. Our results provide evidence that moderate-sized tidal wetlands at the base of moderately urbanized watersheds can attenuate FIB, improving coastal water quality.