Urban Creek Science

The study of urban creeks is a fascinating field that encompasses many scientific disciplines. For more information on local urban creek science, use the following terms to search the Database to find reports, maps and presentations.

Hydrology

The hydrology of urban creeks is the study of how rainwater and storm water interact with the built environment. The urbanization of a watershed often results in more impervious surfaces like roofs and parking lots, which leads to higher and faster peak flows in the creeks, decreased groundwater recharge, and increased pollutants in the storm water runoff. The introduction of Low Impact Development in new development helps to mitigate these negative impacts by mimicking nature’s hydrological cycle.

Water Quality

The release of urban pollutants into creeks impairs water quality and harms ecological habitat. Water quality improvement is a major concern for state regulators and campus scientists who continue to work on methods to reduce the introduction of pollutants into the creeks and the Bay. The Storm Water Permit is one of UC Berkeley’s major avenues of improving water quality.

Biology

Riparian ecosystems provide important habitat for plants and wildlife in the largely urban East Bay metropolitan area. Historically, Bay Area creeks supported seasonal salmon runs and many other aquatic organisms. Improvements in water quality and the implementation of various restoration projects in Strawberry CreekCodornices Creek, and Meeker Slough since the late 1980s has spawned a rebirth of biotic diversity in the creeks and hills of the East Bay.

Geology

The Bay Area is subject to geologic processes including uplifting, earthquakes and mass wasting. Strawberry Creek itself crosses the Hayward Fault, a dominant geologic feature of the UC Berkeley campus and a prime candidate for a major earthquake in the near future.

Geomorphology

Geomorphology is the study of the origins and effects of the earth’s topography. In an urban creek context, geomorphologists look at how creeks interact with the environment by creating pools, riffles, flood plains and canyons, all of which are important habitat features for wildlife. Urban infrastructure like culverts and bridges also impact the geomorphology of an area. 

Land Use

Beneficial uses of urban creeks, such as wildlife habitat, education, and aesthetic enjoyment are inexorably tied to historic and future land use. UC Berkeley has a Long Range Development Plan that seeks to balance development needs with ecological sustainability.