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Wetlands Bring New Life to the Salton Sea

Southern California’s Salton Sea has long struggled with environmental issues, but wetlands have been springing up and nurturing diverse ecosystems.
January 9, 2020, 12pm PST | Camille Fink
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Omar Bárcena

At the Salton Sea in California, new wetlands areas are forming where freshwater runoff is pooling. "These unmanaged flows, scientists say, are flushing salinity out of the soil and forming freshwater ponds on the lake’s margins, which are attracting cattails and grasses. They, in turn, are attracting insects, which are enticing federally endangered desert pupfish and birds such as the Yuma Ridgway’s rail," writes Louis Sahagun.

The wetlands are an unexpected development for the ecologically challenged area, where water levels continue to drop and salinity levels are extremely high. But, the marshlands might also complicate planned restoration projects, particularly in places that contain endangered wildlife. In addition, high selenium concentrations in the soil in these areas could threaten wildlife.

While delays in the past have frustrated environmentalists, activists, and local officials, the state has attributed the issues to logistics and administration. "But patience is wearing thin in a region where critics say dust containing heavy metals, agricultural chemicals and powdery-fine particulates linked to asthma, respiratory diseases and cancer rises from the newly exposed playa," says Sahagun.

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Published on Thursday, January 9, 2020 in Los Angeles Times
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