The History and Ecology of California's Central Valley Wetlands

EPA Grant Number: U916227
Title: The History and Ecology of California's Central Valley Wetlands
Investigators: Garone, Philip F.
Institution: University of California - Davis
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 1, 2003 through January 1, 2006
Project Amount: $130,598
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2003) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Biology/Life Sciences , Fellowship - Behavioral/Social Sciences


The objective of this research project is to present a combined historical and ecological study of California's Central Valley Wetlands from 1850 to the present that addresses how, why, and to what extent economic incentives to drain wetlands recently have been overshadowed by environmental incentives to preserve and restore them.


Utilizing archival historical sources, legislative proceedings, and scientific reports concerning wetland and avian ecology, this research project identifies—and places in historical context—the reasons for large-scale conversion of Central Valley Wetlands to agriculture, primarily in the late 19th and first two-thirds of the 20th centuries. It analyzes the ecological effects to waterfowl populations caused by the loss of more than 90 percent of the Valley’s palustrine wetlands and riparian corridors, including such unexpected effects as the selenium poisoning that led to avian deaths and deformities at the Kesterson National Wildlife Refuge during the early 1980s. It examines significant policy changes concerning wetlands in the late 20th century, including the reauthorization of the Central Valley Project to provide for the protection of fish and wildlife, and the establishment of public/private partnerships to preserve wetlands under the North American Waterfowl Management Plan. These policy changes reflect an increasing understanding of the importance of Central Valley Wetlands to waterfowl populations of the Pacific Flyway. This interdisciplinary research project will serve the needs of historians seeking a more scientific understanding of wetlands and of wetland ecologists, environmental scientists, and policymakers seeking a longer term historical perspective within which to situate their work. Simultaneously, because this research project is a work of environmental history intended to reach a broad audience, it is hoped that it will further increase public interest in wetlands and their protection.

Supplemental Keywords:

fellowship, wetlands protection, Central Valley Wetlands, economic incentives, environmental incentives, policymaking, California, CA, wetlands restoration, Pacific Flyway, waterfowl.

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003
  • 2004
  • Final