Copper River Delta
Spanning boreal forests, complex wetlands, and coastal barrier islands, the Copper River watershed is a highly productive ecosystem rich in fish and wildlife resources. The 700,000-acre delta that lies at the base of this watershed comprises the largest continuous wetland on the Pacific Coast of North America. The delta comprises a labyrinth of constantly changing river channels, marshlands, tidal flats, and sloughs that end in a series of offshore barrier islands.
Home to myriad waterbirds, including 8% of North America ’s breeding trumpeter swans, the Copper River Delta is a crucial stopover site for millions of shorebirds. Up to 80% of the Pacific Flyway’s Western Sandpiper population refuels here enroute to breeding grounds in western Alaska. In addition, this area is a breeding ground for ducks, geese, seabirds, and eagles.
The Copper River Delta is one of many crucial links that support the survival of coastal migrant waterbirds. These linkages, mainly wetlands, estuaries, and mudflats, are distributed from Alaska to South America . The Copper River Delta has been designated a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve—Hemispheric Site, which is the most important designation awarded to a world shorebird site.
The ecology of the delta is closely linked to its unique geology. The delta exists in an exceptionally dynamic geological environment, influenced by earthquakes, glaciers, and nearby volcanic activity. Over the past 2,000 years this area has undergone gradual subsidence punctuated by radical uplift. Violent earthquakes occur at intervals of 600 to 1,000 years, uplifting the entire area 2–3 meters. Aftereach uplift, the area undergoes rapid ecological succession. Few areas in the world have such a dynamic wetland landscape.