SFEWS: A 16-Year Retrospective
Sixteen years ago, San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Science published its first article. In a recent essay, the editors recall the journal's history and ask if the it is living up to goals set in 2003. Are they consistent with today’s needs?
Photo: Tim Mossholder
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