Restoration of tidal wetlands may provide an important tool for improving ecological health and water management for beneficial uses of the San Francisco Estuary (hereafter “Estuary”). Given the large losses of tidal wetlands from San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in the last 150 years, it seems logical to assume that restoring tidal wetlands will have benefits for a variety of aquatic and terrestrial native species that have declined during the same time period. However, many other changes have also occurred in the Estuary concurrent with the declines of native species. Other factors that might be important in species declines include the effects of construction of upstream dams, large and small water diversions within the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, agricultural pesticides, trace elements from industrial and agricultural activities, and invasions of alien species. Discussions among researchers, managers, and stakeholders have identified a number of uncertainties regarding the potential benefits of tidal wetland restoration. The articles of the Tidal Wetlands Restoration Series address four major issues of concern. Stated as questions, these are:
1. Will tidal wetland restoration enhance populations of native fishes?
2. Will wetland restoration increase rates of methylation of mercury?
3. Will primary production and other ecological processes in restored tidal wetlands result in net export of organic carbon to adjacent habitats, resulting in enhancement of the food web? Will the carbon produced contribute to the formation of disinfection byproducts when disinfected for use as drinking water?
4. Will restored tidal wetlands provide long-term ecosystem benefits that can be sustained in response to ongoing physical processes, including sedimentation and hydrodynamics?
Reducing the uncertainty surrounding these issues is of critical importance because tidal wetland restoration is assumed to be a critical tool for enhancement of native species and ecosystem processes in the Estuary.