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 4, 2015
Sturgeon in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Watershed: New Insights to Support Conservation and Management
The goal of a day-long symposium on March 3, 2015, Sturgeon in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Watershed: New Insights to Support Conservation and Management, was to present new information about the physiology, behavior, and ecology of the green (Acipenser medirostris) and white sturgeon (Acipenser transmontanus) to help guide enhanced management and conservation efforts within the Sacramento–San Joaquin watershed. This symposium identified current unknowns and highlighted new electronic tracking technologies and physiological techniques to address these knowledge gaps. A number of presentations, each reviewing ongoing research on the two species, was followed by a round-table discussion, in which each of the participants was asked to share recom-mendations for future research on sturgeon in the watershed. This article presents an in-depth review of the scientific information presented at the sympo-sium with a summary of recommendations for future research.
Riverine Nutrient Trends in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Basins, California: A Comparison to State and Regional Water Quality Policies
Non-point source (NPS) contaminant control strategies were initiated in California in the late 1980s under the authority of the State Porter–Cologne Act and eventually for the development of total maximum daily load (TMDL) plans, under the federal Clean Water Act. Most of the NPS TMDLs developed for California’s Central Valley (CV) region were related to pesticides, but not nutrients. Efforts to reduce pesticide loads and concentrations began in earnest around 1990. The NPS control strategies either encouraged or mandated the use of management practices (MPs). Although TMDLs were largely developed for pesticides, the resultant MPs might have affected the runoff of other potential contaminants (such as nutrients). This study evaluates the effect of agricultural NPS control strategies implemented in California’s CV before and between 1990 and 2013, on nutrients, by comparing trends in surface-water concentrations and loads. In general, use of MPs was encouraged during a “voluntary” period (1990 to 2004) and mandated during an “enforcement” period (2004 to 2013). Nutrient concentrations, loads, and trends were estimated by using a recently developed Weighted Regressions on Time, Discharge, and Season (WRTDS) model. Sufficient total phosphorus (TP), total nitrogen (TN), and nitrate (NO3) data were available to compare the voluntary and enforcement periods for twelve sites within the lower Sacramento and San Joaquin basins. Ammonia concentrations and fluxes were evaluated at a subset of these sites. For six of these sites, flow-normalized mean annual concentrations of TP or NO3 decreased at a faster rate during the enforcement period than during the voluntary period. Concentration changes during similar years and ranges of flow conditions suggest that MPs designed for pesticides may also have reduced nutrient loads. Results show that enforceable NPS policies, and accelerated MP implementation, limits NPS pollution, and may control runoff of non-targeted constituents such as nutrients.
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You Can't Unscramble an Egg: Population Genetic Structure of Oncorhynchus mykiss in the California Central Valley Inferred from Combined Microsatellite and Single Nucleotide Polymorphism Data
Steelhead/rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are found in all of the major tributaries of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, which flow through California’s Central Valley and enter the ocean through San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate. This river system is heavily affected by water development, agriculture, and invasive species, and salmon and trout hatchery propagation has been occurring for over 100 years. We collected genotype data for 18 highly variable microsatellite loci and 95 single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) from more than 1,900 fish from Central Valley drainages to analyze genetic diversity, population structure, differentiation between populations above and below dams, and the relationship of Central Valley O. mykiss populations to coastal California steelhead. In addition, we evaluate introgression by both hatchery rainbow trout strains, which have primarily native Central Valley ancestry, and imported coastal steelhead stocks. In contrast to patterns typical of coastal steelhead, Central Valley O. mykiss above and below dams within the same tributary were not found to be each others’ closest relatives, and we found no relationship between genetic and geographic distance among below-barrier populations. While introgression by hatchery rainbow trout strains does not appear to be widespread among above-barrier populations, steelhead in the American River and some neighboring tributaries have been introgressed by coastal steelhead. Together, these results demonstrate that the ancestral population genetic structure that existed among Central Valley tributaries has been significantly altered in contemporary populations. Future conservation, restoration, and mitigation efforts should take this into account when working to meet recovery planning goals.
Distribution and Habitat Associations of California Black Rail (Laterallus jamaicensis cortuniculus) in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta
Past studies documenting the distribution and status of state “Threatened" California black rail (Laterallus jamaicensis coturniculus; hereafter black rail) have largely omitted the Sacramento—San Joaquin Delta (hereafter Delta). During March to May of 2009–2011, we conducted call–playback surveys to assess the status of the species within a wide range of wetland habitats of the central Delta region. We detected black rails at 21 of 107 discrete wetland sites, primarily on in-channel islands with dense cover. To better understand the habitat and land cover characteristics, we developed a model of habitat suitability from these occurrence data and a fine-scale vegetation and land use dataset using MaxEnt. We also evaluated differences in the size of wetlands at sites where black rails were detected versus where they were not. Through surveys and quantitative modeling, we found black rail presence differed from other regions within California and Arizona, in that it was positively associated with tall (1 to 5 m) emergent vegetation interspersed with riparian shrubs. Specific plants correlated with black rail presence included emergent wetland (Bolboschoenus acutus, B. californicus, B. acutus, Typha angustifolia, T. latifolia, Phragmites australis) and riparian (Salix exigua, S. lasiolepis, Rosa californica, Rubus discolor, Cornus sericea) species. Median patch size was significantly larger and perimeter-to-area ratios were significantly lower at wetland sites where black rails were found. These results provide a preliminary characterization of black rail habitat in the Delta region and highlight the need for better understanding of this listed species’ population size and habitat use in the region, in light of anticipated climate change effects and proposed large-scale restoration in the Delta.