Reconnecting the People, Plants, and Animals of UC San Diego’s Kendall-Frost Swamp

The Kendall-Frost Mission Bay Marsh Reservation at the University of California, San Diego received an $85,000 grant from Honda to create an integrated research and public engagement program focused on integrating Native American perspectives and cutting-edge science in the management and access decisions needed to secure the marsh. survival as a community good.

The significance of the grant is not just in the amount, but in the fact that it will reconnect humans to the swamp while supporting the City of San Diego’s climate action plan, improving ecosystem resilience. and fortifying wildlife habitats in the marsh. The project is a collaboration between the San Diego Audubon Society, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, Native Like Water, and Renascence, a nonprofit organization run by local archaeologists and also a member of the Mesa Grande Band of the Kumeyaay nation.

San Diego Audubon leads the collaborative project and facilitates conversations between researchers and stakeholders. They also incorporate any new scientific and economic findings into their ongoing ReWild Mission Bay planning process. ReWild Mission Bay’s goals align well with the grant project, which is to improve and restore Mission Bay’s natural wetlands for cleaner water, greater climate resilience, and better access to public space.

The Kendall-Frost project has five goals: assess the monetary value of the marsh for carbon sequestration; reconstruct the history of the marsh environment and plants; celebrate the resilience of the Kumeyaay and highlight the importance of the relationship between the community and the natural environment of the marsh; assess the social value of wetland restoration; and create a memorandum of understanding between reserve management and Kumeyaay leadership.

‘Iipay, Founder and Director of the Renascence Project, Brandon Linton, said, “This is a monumental collaboration that promotes the insight and interests of the Kumeyaay people within the building blocks of a program. In the past, we are always invited to the table during the approval phase, but through this grant and partnership, we hope to bring Kumeyaay’s perspective and presence to the Kendall-Frost Mission Bay Marsh reservation.

A valuable tool in the fight against pollution

Swamps remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and bury them in the form of plant remains in the soil of the wetlands. The economic value of buried carbon can be used by the City of San Diego to offset pollution through the city’s climate action plan. In fact, preliminary estimates suggest the buried carbon could be worth millions of dollars to the city if there was widespread restoration of the marshes in northern Mission Bay.

An important goal of the Kendall-Frost project is to produce a firm calculation of the amount of carbon buried in the marsh and its monetary value. To assess carbon sequestration in the marsh, the team will use sediment coring, sample dating and geochemical analyses.

Analysis of sediment cores to reconstruct vegetation history will be led by the Renascence project led by Kumeyaay, in collaboration with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Postdoctoral researcher Matthew Costa will perform carbon sequestration and other sediment measurements. The team will examine changes in the composition of pollen and sea shells, charcoal and mud to reconstruct the environmental history of the marsh and surrounding region. They will also date the cores to better understand the timing of events ahead of European contact.

Costa noted that measuring the carbon burial that has occurred in coastal ecosystems – even small restricted urban wetlands like Kendall-Frost – can help us rethink the city-ocean interface as a critical site. to meet the environmental challenges of the 21st century.

He said: “Combining this carbon data with knowledge of the site’s history during natural and human change can inform how we actively manage sites like these in the future to maximize their value for carbon sequestration, wildlife, coastal protection and cultural significance”.

Bridging a nation’s past and present

The Kumeyaay used the swamp for thousands of years before contact and the Spanish conquest of 1769, when they were displaced. Through the grant, the reserve seeks to provide the Kumeyaay people with equitable access to the swamp and show its living history – how the land was integrated into the framework of life and culture a millennium ago and how it could be reinstated as a valuable resource for humanity. experience.

Together with community organizations and researchers, they will work with Kumeyaay representatives to define research priorities and discuss how best to use the resulting data in a way that benefits the land and those who inhabit this land. region. This close coordination will also allow researchers to learn sustainable indigenous practices that have enabled a symbiotic relationship between humans and the marsh for thousands of years. Members of the Kumeyaay Nation will also be involved in educating the public about the history and cultural values ​​of the marshes.

San Diego Audubon Society Director of Conservation, Andrew Meyer, sees it as an important way to bring the past and present closer together: “This project aims to solidify the future of this beautiful marsh by connecting Kumeyaay leaders to its stewardship. and its access. We will be using our community celebration – Love Your Wetlands Day – to share this perspective and gather community feedback.

The Kendall-Frost Marsh is part of the University of California Nature Reserve System (NRS), a library of ecosystems across California representing most of the state’s major habitats. The NRS provides outdoor labs for field scientists, wallless classrooms for students, and inspiration from nature for all.

The mission of the Natural Reserve System is to contribute to the understanding and wise stewardship of the Earth and its natural systems by supporting university-level education, research, and public service in protected natural areas throughout California.