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 15, Issue 2, 2017
Uncertainties in understanding ecosystems increase the risk that management will fail to achieve desired results. Adaptive management is a structured, iterative application of science-based knowledge to reduce uncertainties and build flexibility into decision-making. However, adaptive management is more easily planned than implemented, and it is only beginning to be applied in the California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. We draw from two assessments of adaptive management in the Delta and examples of its use elsewhere to suggest how the process can be facilitated. Although a highly structured adaptive-management process may not always be needed, several elements are essential. Adaptive management should begin by clearly identifying the problem, goals, and objectives; recognizing uncertainties; identifying decision points and alternative approaches; recognizing when adjustments are needed and having the flexibility to make them; and considering societal and political constraints. Model complexity should be matched to that of the system and management needs; experiments can help unravel causal relationships. Monitoring, analyses, and syntheses require comprehensive data-management systems. More frequent and organized communications among scientists, managers, stakeholders, and decision-makers are necessary. We propose the establishment of an “Adaptive Management Team” to coordinate efforts across the management spectrum of the Delta and to provide guidance and link individual projects to shared approaches and experiences. Reliable long-term support will be needed to assess results of management actions, adjust approaches where improvement is likely, and strive toward the legislated goals of enhancing the Delta ecosystem while also providing reliable water supplies to much of California, and doing both these things in a manner that protects values of the Delta as a place where people live and work.
- 1 supplemental PDF
Quantifying Trade-Offs Among Ecosystem Services, Biodiversity, and Agricultural Returns in an Agriculturally Dominated Landscape Under Future Land‑Management Scenarios
Change in land use in agriculturally dominated areas is often assumed to provide positive benefits for land-owners and financial agricultural returns at the expense of biodiversity and other ecosystem services. For an agriculturally dominated area in the Central Valley of California we quantify the trade-offs among ecosystem services, biodiversity, and the financial returns from agricultural lands. We do this by evaluating three different landscape management scenarios projected to 2050 compared to the current baseline: habitat restoration, urbanization, and enhanced agriculture. The restoration scenario benefited carbon storage services and increased landscape suitability for birds, and also decreased ecosystem disservices (nitrous oxide emissions, nitrogen leaching), although there was a trade-off in slightly lower financial agricultural returns. Under the urbanization scenario, carbon storage, suitability for birds, and agricultural returns were negatively affected. A scenario which enhanced agriculture, tailored to the needs of a key species of conservation concern (Swainson’s Hawk, Buteo swainsoni), presented the most potential for trade-offs. This scenario benefitted carbon storage and increased landscape suitability for the Swainson's Hawk as well as 15 other focal bird species. However, this scenario increased ecosystem disservices. These spatially explicit results, generated at a scale relevant to land management decision-makers in the Central Valley, provide valuable insight into managing for multiple benefits in the landscape and an approach for assessing future land-management decisions.
Delta Smelt have collapsed demographically, but little is known about their current genetic status. We used 12 microsatellite loci to evaluate two measures of the effective population size (Ne) of Delta Smelt. Ne is a measure that offers predictive power regarding the loss of genetic diversity in a population over time, as well as the short and long-term genetic risks for loss of fitness resulting from low diversity. We found that the Ne of Delta Smelt is too high to accurately estimate with the data (upper 95% confidence intervals were infinity), but the lower confidence intervals of NeLD (linkage disequilibrium Ne) were above 1,000, while some of the lower confidence intervals of NeV (variance Ne) were below 1,000. We interpret this to indicate that Delta Smelt are not declining because of genetic factors, and are not at immediate risk of losing genetic diversity from low Ne. We caution that these estimates are from a short-term data set estimated from a population that has already been declining for decades, and that it is likely that Delta Smelt have lost diversity. We suggest continuing efforts to maximize abundance to prevent further loss of genetic diversity.
- 2 supplemental PDFs
Long-Term Surveys Show Invasive Overbite Clams (Potamocorbula amurensis) are Spatially Limited in Suisun Marsh, California
The overbite clam (Potamocorbula amurensis) is a major invasive species in the San Francisco Estuary, California, and has been implicated in the decline of pelagic productivity and native fish species. Little is known of its impact on Suisun Marsh, a large brackish tidal region of the estuary. We looked at the abundance and spatial distribution of clams in the marsh, including examining the influence of water quality, using long-term (1988–2015) otter trawl surveys. Temporal trends indicated that overbite clam abundance has been increasing, but adult clams were spatially restricted to a single large slough (Suisun). Clams were absent from most interior channels, limiting their overall effect on the marsh aquatic ecosystem. Abiotic variables, particularly salinity, proved important predictors of overbite clam abundance, although the variables examined alone could not explain overbite clam distributions. We propose that connectivity, detritus loads, and/or predation pressure may work in conjunction with abiotic variables to cause poor survival rates for recruits in interior marsh sites, keeping the distribution limited. Overall results are encouraging for restoration projects in brackish tidal marshes that need to deal with overbite clams.
- 1 supplemental PDF