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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Statistical Evaluation of Behavior and Population Dynamics Models Predicting Movement and Proportional Entrainment Loss of Adult Delta Smelt in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta


There has been considerable debate about effects of entrainment of endangered Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) at water export facilities located in the Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta. In this paper we use a behavior-driven movement model (BMM) to simulate the movement of adult Delta Smelt, which, in conjunction with a population dynamics model, estimates the proportion of the population that is lost to entrainment, i.e., proportional entrainment loss (PEL). Parameters of the population model are estimated by maximum likelihood by comparing predictions to data from Fall Midwater Trawl (FMWT) and Spring Kodiak Trawl (SKT) surveys, as well as to daily salvage estimates. Our objectives are to evaluate different movement behavior hypotheses, to rank estimates of PEL based on how well predictions fit the data, and to sharpen our understanding of the data to inform future research and monitoring decisions.

We applied the modeling framework to data from water year 2002—a year when salvage was high—and tested 30 combinations of six behavior and five population dynamics models. More complex process and observation assumptions in the population model led to much improved fits in most cases, but did not appreciably influence PEL predictions, which were largely determined by movement predictions from the BMMs. Estimates of PEL varied considerably among behaviors (2% to 40%). The model with the highest predictive capability explained 98% of the variation in FMWT data across regions, 70% of the variation in SKT data across regions and surveys, and 28% and 43% of the daily variation in salvage at federal and state fish screening facilities, respectively. The PEL estimate from this model was 35%, more than double the original estimate from Kimmerer (2008) of 15%. While PEL estimates provided in this study should be considered preliminary, our framework for testing combined behavior-driven movement models and population dynamics models is an improvement compared to earlier efforts.

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