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 13, Issue 1, 2015
Policy and Program Analysis
Since the mid-1800s the Sacramento–San Joaquin river system in the California Central Valley has experienced a dramatic decline in the distribution and abundance of wild salmon, along with many extirpations. The causes of the decline are many, and have been well studied. Despite restoration efforts spanning decades and involving large expenditures, runs of wild salmon in the Central Valley continue to decline. Using the most probable policy and ecological scenarios (i.e., effects of continued harvest, continued stocking from hatcheries, changing climate, continued human population growth and associated demands for scarce water resources) and based on expert judgment, we assessed the most likely future of wild salmon runs in the Central Valley in 2100. We posed seven open-ended questions to senior salmon science and policy experts in federal and state agencies; local, regional, and national organizations; non-governmental organizations; and universities. With a promise of complete and permanent anonymity, these experts provided answers. Most experts concluded that by 2100 wild salmon in the Central Valley will be extirpated or minimally abundant if current trends continue.
Three-Dimensional Modeling of Hydrodynamics and Salinity in the San Francisco Estuary: An Evaluation of Model Accuracy, X2, and the Low–Salinity Zone
The three-dimensional UnTRIM San Francisco Bay–Delta model was applied to simulate tidal hydrodynamics and salinity in the San Francisco Estuary (estuary) using an unstructured grid. We compared model predictions to observations of water level, tidal flow, current speed, and salinity collected at 137 locations throughout the estuary. A quantitative approach based on multiple model assessment metrics was used to evaluate the model's accuracy for each comparison. These comparisons demonstrate that the model accurately predicted water level, tidal flow, and salinity during a 3-year simulation period that spanned a large range of flow and salinity conditions. The model is therefore suitable for detailed investigation of circulation patterns and salinity distributions in the estuary.
The model was used to investigate the location, and spatial and temporal extent of the low-salinity zone (LSZ), defined by salinity between 0.5 and 6 psu. We calculated X2, the distance up the axis of the estuary to the daily-averaged 2-psu near-bed salinity, and the spatial extent of the LSZ for each day during the 3-year simulation. The location, area, volume, and average depth of the low-salinity zone varied with X2; however this variation was not monotonic and was largely controlled by the geometry of the estuary.
We used predicted daily X2 values and the corresponding daily Delta outflow for each day during the 3-year simulation to develop a new equation to relate X2 to Delta outflow. This equation provides a conceptual improvement over previous equations by allowing the time constant for daily changes in X2 to vary with flow conditions. This improvement resulted in a smaller average error in X2 prediction than previous equations. These analyses demonstrate that a well-calibrated three-dimensional (3-D) hydrodynamic model is a valuable tool for investigating the salinity distributions in the estuary, and their influence on the distribution and abundance of physical habitat.
- 1 supplemental PDF
Modeling Tidal Freshwater Marsh Sustainability in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta Under a Broad Suite of Potential Future Scenarios
In this paper, we report on the adaptation and application of a one-dimensional marsh surface elevation model, the Wetland Accretion Rate Model of Ecosystem Resilience (WARMER), to explore the conditions that lead to sustainable tidal freshwater marshes in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. We defined marsh accretion parameters to encapsulate the range of observed values over historic and modern time-scales based on measurements from four marshes in high and low energy fluvial environments as well as possible future trends in sediment supply and mean sea level. A sensitivity analysis of 450 simulations was conducted encompassing a range of porosity values, initial elevations, organic and inorganic matter accumulation rates, and sea-level rise rates. For the range of inputs considered, the magnitude of SLR over the next century was the primary driver of marsh surface elevation change. Sediment supply was the secondary control. More than 84% of the scenarios resulted in sustainable marshes with 88 cm of SLR by 2100, but only 32% and 11% of the scenarios resulted in surviving marshes when SLR was increased to 133 cm and 179 cm, respectively. Marshes situated in high-energy zones were marginally more resilient than those in low-energy zones because of their higher inorganic sediment supply. Overall, the results from this modeling exercise suggest that marshes at the upstream reaches of the Delta—where SLR may be attenuated—and high energy marshes along major channels with high inorganic sediment accumulation rates will be more resilient to global SLR in excess of 88 cm over the next century than their downstream and low-energy counterparts. However, considerable uncertainties exist in the projected rates of sea-level rise and sediment avail-ability. In addition, more research is needed to constrain future rates of aboveground and belowground plant productivity under increased CO2 concentrations and flooding.
- 2 supplemental PDFs
- 1 supplemental file