CNDDB News Blog

  • February 1, 2021

Every year World Wetlands Day is celebrated on February 2nd, marking the date in 1971 in which the Convention on Wetlands was adopted in Ramsar, Iran. The Convention on Wetlands is an intergovernmental treaty that outlines the importance of wetlands and provides a framework on how to preserve and sustainably use these precious lands around the world. Wetlands are a crucial part of our environment as they store fresh water for our consumption and are a habitat or breeding ground for 40% of the world’s species. Important agricultural, environmental, recreational, and economical services are also provided by wetlands all over the globe.

Wetlands are defined as lands that are near or under the water for at least part of the year, such as estuaries, saltmarshes, and mangroves. They can contain fresh or salt water and are home to plants and animals that are specially adapted to life in an aquatic environment. In California only about 5% of our wetlands remain, largely due to the fact that they have historically been destroyed for agricultural or urbanization purposes. Since many wetlands are reliant on high groundwater levels, climate change also poses a significant threat to these valuable lands.

Sunset at Yolo Wildlife Area
Sunset at Yolo Wildlife Area. CDFW photo by Bob Sahara.

This year’s theme for World Wetlands Day is “Wetlands and Water,” which is fitting being as these important ecosystems store most of the world’s fresh water. Wetlands play a large role in filtering pollutants and providing fresh water that we can drink or use to irrigate crops. With a global consumption of 10 billion tons of water per day, the stress placed on wetlands is high.

Another primary function of wetlands is flood control. When extreme weather events occur, wetlands act as shock absorbers and help protect surrounding areas from flooding. In fact, each acre of wetland can absorb up to 1.5 million gallons of floodwater! These lands also store large amounts of carbon, which helps regulate the climate and lessen the severity of climate change.

Great egret standing in some vegetation by the water
Great egret (Ardea alba) hunting at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. CDFW photo by Kirsten Macintyre.

Agriculturally, wetlands are important spaces for rice paddies and other forms of farming; 3.5 billion people rely on rice paddies for food annually. Aquaculture is also an important factor of wetlands. Shrimp, clams, fish, and many other aquatic organisms are grown in wetlands to help reduce overfishing in oceans and meet our increasing global demand for food. In 2016, approximately 30% of fish production was through inland aquaculture.

Of course, wetlands are also important recreational spaces for birdwatching, photography, hunting, walking, or simply enjoying the beauty of nature. We must preserve these valuable wetlands by doing what we can to conserve water, address pollution, and raise awareness on the importance of these lands. We encourage you to visit your local wetlands with a newfound appreciation and keep an eye out for any native wildlife. If you happen to spot a rare species, be sure to report your observation through our Online Field Survey Form!

For more information on World Wetlands Day and how to get involved, please visit the link opens in new windowOfficial World Wetlands Day website.

Categories: Education and Awareness
  • December 16, 2020

Three photographs of California native plants.
CDFW photos by Katie Ferguson

This spring, Sacramento City College will offer a virtual version of their field botany course. This is a valuable opportunity for those new to botany to learn about the flora of California, and for veteran botanists to brush up on the basics.

In this course students will learn how to identify many common plant families and species and learn how to use the Jepson Manual for plant identification. There will be a weekly in-class meeting via Zoom as well as pre-recorded videos. The instructor will also distribute plant specimens so that students can get hands-on experience with dissection and keying.

If you are interested in learning more about California’s beautiful and diverse flora, 2021 might be an ideal time to take this field botany course thanks to the flexible nature of virtual learning. If you have any questions about this course, please contact Lisa Serafini at

Categories: Education and Awareness
  • November 23, 2020

History Hunters logo

Did you know that CNDDB tracks plant species that are extinct or extirpated in California? The link opens in new windowCNPS Rare Plant Inventory ranks 28 plants as 1A (extinct in California) or 2A (extirpated in California but more common elsewhere). The CNDDB maintains records on these species, with details on the locations where they used to occur and the threats that led to their extinction.

So why continue to track these plants if they’re not around anymore? One reason is that there’s always a chance the species could be rediscovered in the future! It’s actually pretty easy for a small population of a very rare plant to escape notice for years or decades – the seeds could be waiting for just the right conditions to sprout, or the plant could be growing on private land inaccessible to botanists searching for the species.

Several plants listed as extinct in past editions of the CNPS Rare Plant Inventory have since been rediscovered. The Mount Diablo buckwheat (Eriogonum truncatum) was last seen in 1936 and presumed extinct, since introduced annual grasses had invaded its preferred habitat. In 2005, a UC Berkeley graduate student link opens in new windowrediscovered the Mount Diablo buckwheat on land recently acquired by Mount Diablo State Park.

Photos of Eriogonum truncatum specimen and flowers
Left: 1934 specimen of Mount Diablo buckwheat. Right: 2014 photo of rediscovered Mount Diablo buckwheat.
Courtesy of link opens in new windowHarvard University Herbaria link opens in new window(CC BY-NC) and link opens in new windowLech Naumovich link opens in new window(CC BY-NC-SA)

The Franciscan manzanita (Arctostaphylos franciscana) was believed to be extinct in the wild after the last known San Francisco populations were destroyed by development in the 1940s. In 2009, botanists found link opens in new windowone Franciscan manzanita shrub growing on a roadside slated for construction, and rushed to transplant it to a safe location. Most recently, a grass species last collected in Baja California in 1886, Sphenopholis interrupta ssp. californica, was rediscovered earlier this year in San Diego County.

Even if a species is truly extinct, preserving records of where it used to occur helps us paint a full picture of California’s conservation landscape, failures and all.

If you’re interested in becoming a botanical history hunter, and possibly rediscovering an extinct species yourself, check out the link opens in new windowCNPS Rare Plant Treasure Hunt! Every year, CNPS organizes volunteers to revisit and rediscover historical rare plant populations all over California. If you do find a botanical treasure, be sure to share your discovery with the CNDDB.

Categories: Education and Awareness