Reduction of fecal indicator bacteria (FIB) in the Ballona Wetlands saltwater marsh (Los Angeles County, California, USA) with implications for restoration actions

John H. Dorsey, Patrick M. Carter, Sean Bergquist, Raphael D Sagarin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

9 Scopus citations


A benefit of wetland preservation and restoration is the ecosystem service of improving water quality, typically assessed based on bacterial loading. The Ballona Wetlands, a degraded salt marsh of approximately 100 ac located on the southern border of Marina Del Rey (Los Angeles County, California, USA) are currently the focus of publicly funded restoration planning. The wetlands receive tidal water, usually contaminated with fecal indicator bacteria (FIB: total and fecal coliforms, Escherichia coli, enterococci) from the adjacent Ballona Creek and Estuary. During the summer of 2007, two 24-h studies were conducted to determine FIB tidal dynamics within the wetland. Measurements of water flow and mean FIB concentrations (n = 3) were measured every 1.5 h to determine total FIB load estimates. FIB loading rates (MPN/s) were greatest during flood tides as water entered the wetlands, and then again during spring tide conditions when sediments were resuspended during swifter spring ebb flows. During daylight hours, the wetland acted as a sink for these bacteria as loads diminished, presumably by sunlight and other processes. Conversely, during late afternoon and night, the wetlands shifted to being a source as excess FIB departed on ebb flows. Therefore, the wetlands act as both a source and sink for FIB depending on tidal conditions and exposure to sunlight. Future restoration actions would result in a tradeoff - increased tidal channels offer a greater surface area for FIB inactivation, but also would result in a greater volume of FIB-contaminated resuspended sediments carried out of the wetlands on stronger ebb flows. As levels of FIB in Ballona Creek and Estuary diminish through recently established regulatory actions, the wetlands could shift into a greater sink for FIB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4630-4642
Number of pages13
JournalWater Research
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2010



  • Fecal indicator bacteria
  • FIB loading
  • Tidal flux
  • Wetlands

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution
  • Ecological Modeling

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