SFEWS: Volume 19, Issue 2
Welcome to the June issue of San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science. At midyear in 2021, research surrounding the San Francisco Estuary looks forward. Here, six articles in four categories offer advances in science using new technologies and a re-examination of past efforts.
Photo: CA Dept. of Water Resources, public domain.
In Honor of Dr. Larry R. Brown
Herbold et al. remember Dr. Larry R. Brown, who died suddenly in February of 2021. This note captures how important his scientific work was in the San Francisco Estuary and why he will be intensely missed by many of his colleagues.
Photo: Canva stock image
Preparing Scientists, Policymakers, and Managers for a Fast-Forward Future
To accelerate forward-looking science, policy, and management in the Delta, Norgaard et al. propose that the State of California create a Delta Science Visioning Process to fully and openly assess the challenges of more rapid change to science, policy, and management and offer appropriate solutions, including legislation.
Photo: CA Dept. of Water Resources, public domain
Ecological Effects of Climate-Driven Salinity Variation in the San Francisco Estuary: Can We Anticipate and Manage the Coming Changes?
Ghalambor et al. review and summarize the presentations and discussions that arose during the symposium “Ecological and Physiological Impacts of Salinization of Aquatic Systems from Human Activities,” which brought together an interdisciplinary group of scientists, managers, and policy-makers to answer the central question: can we use existing knowledge and future projections to predict and manage anticipated ecological impacts?
Photo: Canva stock image
Effects of Tidally Varying River Flow on Entrainment of Juvenile Salmon into Sutter and Steamboat Slough
Previous studies suggest that fish generally “go with the flow”—however, complex tidal hydrodynamics at sub-daily time-scales may be decoupled from net flow. To further examine entrainment of acoustically tagged juvenile Chinook Salmon into Sutter and Steamboat sloughs, Romine et al. modeled routing of acoustic tagged juvenile salmon as a function of tidally varying hydrodynamic data. Results indicate that discharge, the proportion of flow that entered the slough, and the rate of change of flow were good predictors of the probability of an individual fish being entrained.
Photo: John Burau
Examining Retention-at-Length of Pelagic Fishes Caught in the Fall Midwater Trawl Survey
A study was conducted in 2014-2015 to investigate and quantify the efficiency of the Fall Midwater Trawl for catching the endangered fish species Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus). Mitchell and Baxter revisit the same gear efficiency study and further utilize the data set by fitting selectivity curves for three additional pelagic fish species: Threadfin Shad (Dorosoma petenense), American Shad (Alosa sapidissima), and Mississippi Silverside (Menidia beryllina), and by applying more statistically sensitive approaches.
Photo: Lara Mitchell
Use of the SmeltCam as an Efficient Fish Sampling Alternative Within the San Francisco Estuary
Resource managers often rely on long-term monitoring surveys to detect trends in biological data. However, no survey gear is 100% efficient, and many sources of bias can both detect or miss biological trends. Huntsman et al. evaulate the SmeltCam, an imaging apparatus developed as a sampling alternative to long-term trawling gear surveys within the San Francisco Estuary, with the potential to reduce handling stress on sensitive species like the Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus).
Photo: Ken Newman
Volume 12, Issue 3, 2014
Diet, Prey Selection, and Body Condition of Age-0 Delta Smelt, Hypomesus transpacificus, in the Upper San Francisco Estuary
The Delta Smelt, an endangered fish, has suffered a long-term decline in abundance, believed to result from, in part, to changes in the pelagic food web of the upper San Francisco Estuary. To investigate the current role of food as a factor in Delta Smelt well-being, we developed reference criteria for gut fullness and body condition based on allometric growth. We then examined monthly diet, prey selectivity, and gut fullness of larvae and juvenile Delta Smelt collected April through September in 2005 and 2006 for evidence of feeding difficulties leading to reduced body condition. Calanoid copepods Eurytemora affinis and Pseudodiaptomus forbesi remained major food items during spring and from early summer through fall, respectively. Other much larger copepods and macroinvertebrates contributed in lesser numbers to the diet of older juvenile fish from mid-summer through fall. In fall, juvenile Delta Smelt periodically relied heavily on very small prey and prey potentially associated with demersal habitat, suggesting typical pelagic food items were in short supply. We found a strong positive selection for E. affinis and P. forbesi, neutral to negative selection for evasive calanoid Sinocalanus doerrii, and neutral to negative selection for the small cyclopoid copepod Limnoithona tetraspina and copepod nauplii, which were consumed only when extremely numerous in the environment. Feeding incidence was significantly higher in 2006, but among successfully feeding fish we found no between year difference in gut fullness. However, we did detect differences in fullness across months in both years. We found no difference in body condition of Delta Smelt between years yet our sample sizes were low in September when Delta Smelt reverted to feeding on very small organisms and fullness declined, so the longer-term effect remains unknown. Our findings suggest that: Delta Smelt had difficulty obtaining prey in spring 2005 or obtaining proper-sized prey in fall of both years. We detected these difficulties in some regional feeding incidence and fullness indices, but not in body condition indices.
- 2 supplemental PDFs
Alameda Song Sparrow Abundance Related to Salt Marsh Vegetation Patch Size and Shape Metrics Quantified from Remote Sensing Imagery
Understanding the characteristics of high-quality avian habitat is critical for guiding salt marsh management and restoration. Existing insights into salt marsh avian habitat are often based on the composition of marsh vegetation, e.g., individual plant species cover. This study investigated whether the spatial configuration of marsh surface cover (e.g., patch number, density, size, shape complexity and compactness, degree of dissection of the landscape, variation and repetition of cover type, and the variance within these metrics) is a useful, additional indicator of avian habitat quality for the Alameda Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia pusillula), a non-migratory California Species of Special Concern endemic to southern San Francisco Bay. M. m. pusillula density during the breeding seasons of 2002 through 2005 was estimated at 82 observation points in 10 marsh sites within the bird’s geographic range. The mean bird density index (overall mean: 5.61 birds detected per hectare of marsh) was not significantly different among marshes of different ages. We mapped the vegetation zones, open water, and upland areas within each marsh site using high resolution aerial photographs and automated classification analysis. We quantified the configuration of surface cover around each bird observation point by 31 metrics. Bird density index was best modeled by a multiple linear regression containing positive relationships with the metrics Mean Core Area Index and Patch Core Area Coefficient of Variation (R 2= 0.210, p < 0.0001). Qualitatively, this model suggested that M. m. pusillula abundance during the breeding season was greatest in marsh areas with compact patches that spanned a variety of patch sizes from moderate-to-large, uninterrupted by other cover. We conclude that configuration-based vegetation pattern analysis could usefully complement more customary composition-based habitat assessments to aid wetland habitat research, management, and restoration.
- 2 supplemental PDFs
Climate change is expected to progressively shift the freshwater environments of the San Francisco Bay Area (SFBA) to states that favor alien fishes over native species. Native species likely will have more limited distributions and some may be extirpated. Stream-dependent species may decline as portions of streams dry or become warmer due to lower flows and increased air temperatures. However, factors other than climate change may pose a more immediate threat to native fishes. Comparison of regional vs. statewide vulnerability (baseline and climate change) scores suggests that a higher proportion (56% vs. 50%) of SFBA native species, as compared to the state’s entire fish fauna, are vulnerable to existing anthropogenic threats that result in habitat degradation. In comparison, a smaller proportion of SFBA native species are vulnerable to predicted climate change effects (67% vs. 82%). In the SFBA, adverse effects from climate change likely come second to estuarine alteration, agriculture, and dams. However, the relative effect of climate change on species likely will grow in an increasingly warmer and drier California. Maintaining representative assemblages of native fishes may require providing flow regimes downstream from dams that reflect more natural hydrographs, extensive riparian, stream, and estuarine habitat restoration, and other management actions, such as modification of hatchery operations.