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 2, Issue 2, 2004
Spatial and Temporal Variability of Suspended-Sediment Concentrations in a Shallow Estuarine Environment
Shallow subembayments respond differently than deep channels to physical forces acting in estuaries. The U.S. Geological Survey measured suspended-sediment concentrations at five locations in Honker Bay, a shallow subembayment of San Francisco Bay, and the adjacent channel to investigate the spatial and temporal differences between deep and shallow estuarine environments. During the first freshwater pulse of the wet season, the channel tended to transport suspended sediments through the system, whereas the shallow area acted as off-channel storage where deposition would likely occur. Following the freshwater pulse, suspended-sediment concentrations were greater in Honker Bay than in the adjacent deep channel, due to the larger supply of erodible sediment on the bed. However, the tidal variability of suspended-sediment concentrations in both Honker Bay and in the adjacent channel was greater after the freshwater pulse than before. During wind events, suspended-sediment concentrations in the channel were not affected; however, wind played a crucial role in the resuspension of sediments in the shallows. Despite wind-wave sediment resuspension in Honker Bay, tidally averaged suspended-sediment flux was controlled by the flood-dominated currents.
Human activities within a watershed, such as agriculture, urbanization, and dam building, may affect the sediment yield from the watershed. Because the equilibrium geomorphic form of an estuary is dependent in part on the sediment supply from the watershed, anthropogenic activities within the watershed have the potential to affect estuary geomorphology. The Sacramento River drains the northern half of California’s Central Valley and is the primary source of sediment to San Francisco Bay. In this paper, it is shown that the delivery of suspended-sediment from the Sacramento River to San Francisco Bay has decreased by about one-half during the period 1957 to 2001. Many factors may be contributing to the trend in sediment yield, including the depletion of erodible sediment from hydraulic mining in the late 1800s, trapping of sediment in reservoirs, riverbank protection, altered land-uses (such as agriculture, grazing, urbanization, and logging), and levees. This finding has implications for planned tidal wetland restoration activities around San Francisco Bay, where an adequate sediment supply will be needed to build subsided areas to elevations typical of tidal wetlands as well as to keep pace with projected sea-level rise. In a broader context, the study underscores the need to address anthropogenic impacts on watershed sediment yield when considering actions such as restoration within downstream depositional areas.
Biology and Population Dynamics of Sacramento Splittail (Pogonichthys macrolepidotus) in the San Francisco Estuary: A Review
The Sacramento splittail (Pogonichthys macrolepidotus) is a cyprinid fish endemic to the Central Valley of California with a range that centers on the San Francisco Estuary. It is a state Species of Special Concern and was only recently (2003) delisted as a threatened species by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Splittail live 7-9 years, tolerate a wide range of environmental conditions, and have high fecundity. Typically, adults migrate upstream in January and February and spawn on seasonally inundated floodplains in March and April. In May the juveniles migrate back downstream to shallow, brackish water rearing grounds, where they feed on detritus and invertebrates for 1-2 years before migrating back upstream to spawn. Seven long-term sampling programs in the estuary indicate that the splittail population is maintained by strong year classes resulting from successful spawning in wet years, although some spawning occurs in all years. Modeling shows them to be resilient, but managing floodplains to promote frequent successful spawning is needed to keep them abundant. Additionally, it is important to provide safe migration corridors between spawning and rearing grounds as well as abundant high-quality brackish water rearing habitat. Key research needs are (1) to examine how the timing, magnitude, and duration of high flows contribute to the generation of strong year classes, (2) to describe differences in young of year survival on the floodplain and in river margins from hatching to down-river migration, (3) explore the possible trophic effects of new invaders such as the overbite clam and Siberian prawn, and (4) determine the response of splittail populations to climate change and sea level rise.