California Coastal Commission



Anaerobic Soil: Soil that is devoid of interstitial oxygen. In wetlands this condition most normally occurs because of the sustained presence of water, which limits contact with the atmosphere.

Biogenic: Chemicals or material created (generated) by biological processes. For example, waste products are generated through the biological processes of digestion.

Carnivore: Animals whose diet normally includes only other animals.

Detritus: Organic debris from decomposing plants or animals.

Ecotone: A habitat created by the juxtaposition of distinctly different habitats; an edge habitat, or a zone of transition between habitat types. For example, the intertidal zone is an ecotone occurring at the intersection between the subtidal zone and dry land.

Estuarine: The estuarine environment consists of deepwater tidal habitats and adjacent tidal wetlands that are usually semi-enclosed by land but have open, partially obstructed, or sporadic access to the open ocean, and in which ocean water is at least occasionally diluted by freshwater runoff from the land.

Former Wetland: A land area originally existing as a wetland, which has been altered to another land-form through human or natural processes. Agricultural lands created from the diking or filling of wetlands are an example of former wetlands. Former wetlands do not generally exhibit any of the original wetland characteristics (i.e., form and function). In contrast, degraded wetlands do exhibit some of the original wetland characteristics, although often to a lesser extent.

Fen: A unique type of wetland characterized by a saturated substrate dominated by organic material in which acidic conditions (pH < 7) prevail. Contrast with a bog, which has a saturated substrate dominated by organic material in which basic conditions (pH > 7) prevail.

Hydric Soil: A type of soil with characteristics resulting from prolonged saturation and chemically reducing conditions such as occurs under anaerobic conditions. (See Anaerobic Soil above.)

Hydrology: The dynamic processes of the water within an environment including the sources, timing, amount, and direction of water movement.

Hydrophytic Vegetation: Plants that have adapted to living in aquatic environments. These plants are also called hydrophytes. In wetlands, hydrophytic species occur where at least the root zone of the plant is seasonally or continually found in saturated or submerged soil.

In-Kind-Mitigation: A mitigation project in close proximity to the site of impact that is designed to replace lost resources with identical or very similar resources.

Lacustrine: A lake or lake-like environment. Cowardin et al. (1979) define the lacustrine environment as "wetlands and deepwater habitats with all of the following characteristics: (1) situated in a topographic depression or dammed river channel; (2) lacking trees, shrubs, persistent emergent plants, mosses, or lichens with greater than 30% areal coverage; and (3) total area exceeds 8 ha (20 acres). Similar wetland and deepwater habitats totaling less than 8 ha are also included in the lacustrine environment if an active wave-formed or bedrock shoreline feature makes up all or part of the boundary, or if the water depth in the deepest part of the basin exceeds 2 m (6.6 feet) at low water. Lacustrine waters may be tidal or non-tidal, but ocean-derived salinity is always less than 0.5 parts per thousand."

Macrophytes: Plants visible to the unaided eye. In terms of plants found in wetlands, macrophytes are the conspicuous multicellular plants.

Marine: The marine environment consists of the ocean and the associated high-energy coastline. Marine habitats are exposed to the waves and currents of the open ocean and the water regimes are determined primarily by the ebb and flow of oceanic tides.

Mixed semidiurnal tidal regime: The tidal regime occurring along the California coast. This tidal regime is characterized by two high tides and two low tides every 25 hours. The tidal extremes (point of maximum high or low water) all differ and occur in a mixed sequence. That is, the higher high tide is followed by the lower low tide, followed by the lower high tide, and then the higher low tide. The tidal height is primarily determined by gravitational forces among the Earth, moon, and sun, but is also affected by weather and local geography.

Nitrogen Fixation: Biochemical conversion of atmospheric nitrogen into nitrogen compounds such as nitrate and nitrite. This process is naturally carried out by certain soil-inhabiting bacteria and certain blue–green algae.

Nutrients: Chemical compounds or elements required by all living organisms for growth, reproduction, and the maintenance of homeostasis. Most commonly, measurements are taken from water samples to determine the concentration of nutrients required by plants (e.g., primary producers). For plants, inorganic macronutrients (i.e., nutrients required in relatively large amounts) include nitrate, nitrite, ammonium, and phosphates. Inorganic micronutrients (i.e., nutrients required in relatively small amounts) include copper, molybdenum, and magnesium. Organic nutrients include amino acids and vitamins.

Omnivore: Animals whose diet normally included both plants and animals.

Out-of-Kind mitigation: A mitigation project that replaces lost resources with resources that are not similar (e.g., using an artificial reef as mitigation for filling a salt marsh). The mitigation project may or may not be in close proximity to the site of impact.

Palustrine: The palustrine environment includes all non-tidal wetlands dominated by trees, shrubs, persistent emergent macrophytes, emergent mosses or lichens, and all such wetlands that occur in tidal areas where salinity due to ocean-derived salts is below 5 parts per thousand (ppt). It also includes wetlands lacking such vegetation, but with all of the following four characteristics: (1) area less than 8 ha (20 acres); (2) active wave-formed or bedrock shoreline features are lacking; (3) water depth in the deepest part of the basin is less than 2 m at low water; and (4) salinity due to ocean-derived salts is less than 5 ppt (Cowardin et al., 1979).

Plate tectonics: The theory that accounts for seismic activity, mountain building, volcanism, and other geological manifestations of crustal plate movement with sea-floor spreading.

Productivity: The transfer of energy and nutrients into living matter over time. Productivity is a function of both the growth rate and biomass of an organism and is expressed as a rate of change. For example, primary productivity is the rate of increase in plant material over a unit area and time e.g., grams Carbon/m2/yr. Secondary productivity applies to animals and is expressed in the same terms.

Remineralization: Release of nutrients and other compounds chemically bound in soils or sediments through chemical processes.

Respiration: (1) Internal respiration: the chemical processes from which all living organisms derive energy from stored reserves and food. (2) External respiration: breathing of air; taking oxygen from the environment and giving off carbon dioxide.

Riparian Area: A type of habitat occurring along the bank of a water course or other water body typically consisting of water tolerant trees and shrubs such as alder, cottonwood, and willows. Many riparian areas occur as bands of vegetation along a water course, often called riparian corridors.

Riverine: An aquatic environment with a water source conveyed by a channel. A channel is an open conduit either naturally or artificially created that periodically or continuously contains moving water, or which forms a connecting link between two bodies of standing water. Rivers, streams, creeks, and aqueducts are all riverine environments.

Tidal Prism: The volume of water that flows in and out of an area between higher high tide and lower low tide.

Vernal Pool: A seasonal wetland formed in depressions having a specific geology and hydrology, which directly influence the plants and animals found within.

Water quality: Most generally described as the physical, chemical and biological integrity of the water.

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Return to Chapter 1: Coastal Development Permit Review Process

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Return to Chapter 3: Protection and Management of Wetlands in the California Coastal Zone: A Review of Relevant Agencies and Processes

Return to Chapter 4: Priority Wetland Resource Concerns: A Review of Relevant Technical Information

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