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 4, Issue 2, 2006
Variation in Spring Nearshore Resident Fish Species Composition and Life Histories in the Lower San Joaquin Watershed and Delta
Providing freshwater to human populations while protecting or rehabilitating ecosystem health is a significant challenge to water resource managers and requires accurate knowledge of aquatic resources. Previous studies of fish assemblages in the San Francisco Estuary and watershed have focused on specific habitat types, water bodies, or geographic subregions. In this study, we use seining data from two monitoring programs to provide an integrated view of spring nearshore resident fish species composition and life history characteristics in five regions: the San Joaquin River, the upper Sacramento River, the lower Sacramento River, the northern Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (North Delta), and the Interior Delta. Data for the period March-May from 1994 to 2002, showed that spring species composition of the San Joaquin River was very different from the other four regions. Total catch in the San Joaquin River was dominated by small, short-lived batch spawning alien species (93%), particularly red shiner Cyprinella lutrensis (>75% of total catch). The upper and lower Sacramento River were very similar in species composition and life history characteristics and less dominated by alien fish (<45% of total catch). Ordination of species percentage abundances by non–metric multidimensional scaling confirmed that the major gradient was from assemblages dominated by native species to assemblages dominated by alien species. Two-way analysis of variance of ordination scores indicated that spatial variability was more important than annual variability in explaining patterns in species composition. The potential benefits of San Joaquin River native fish restoration appear high because there is so much potential for improvement; however, it is unclear how to best manipulate the system to achieve such restoration. Addressing such uncertainties is necessary if society desires the reservation and restoration of native biodiversity as human demands on water resources increase.
Natural floodplain ecosystems are adapted to highly variable hydrologic regimes, which include periodic droughts, infrequent large floods, and relatively frequent periods of inundation. To more effectively manage water resources and maintain ecosystem services provided by floodplains – and associated aquatic, riparian, and wetland habitats – requires an understanding of seasonal and inter-annual hydrologic variability of floodplains. The Cosumnes River, the largest river on the west-slope Sierra Nevada mountains without a major dam, provides a pertinent test case to develop a systematic classification of hydrologic variability. By examining the dynamics of its relatively natural flow regime, and a 98-year streamflow record (1908 – 2005), we identified 12 potential flood types. We identified four duration thresholds, defined as short (S), medium (M), long (L), and very long (V). We then intersected the flood duration division by three magnitude classes, defined as small-medium (1), large (2), and very large (3). Of the 12 possible flood types created by this classification matrix, the Cosumnes River streamflow record populated 10 such classes. To assess the robustness of our classification, we employed discriminant analysis to test class fidelity based on independent measures of flood capability, such as start date. Lastly, we used hierarchical divisive clustering to classify water years by flood type composition resulting in 8 water year types. The results of this work highlight the significant seasonal and inter-annual variability in natural flood regimes in Central Valley rivers. The construction of water impoundment and flood control structures has significantly altered all aspects of the flood pulse. Restoring floodplain ecosystem services will require re-establishing key elements of these historic flood regimes in order to achieve regional restoration goals and objectives.
Arsenic in Groundwater: A Review of Current Knowledge and Relation to the CALFED Solution Area with Recommendations for Needed Research
Ground water with arsenic concentrations greater than the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standard exists throughout much of the CALFED solution area. These high concentrations are of con-cern from the standpoint of both existing water supply and development of conjunctive use projects. Much is known about arsenic mobility in ground water subject to different hydrologic and geochemical conditions. However, some important knowledge gaps exist that limit the ability to design water supply projects that could prevent arsenic mobilization or promote arsenic removal from ground water. A few well studied sys-tems could provide a much better understanding of methods for preventing or eliminating high arsenic problems. Within the context of the examination of a few detailed field studies, some important research needs include: 1.) Determining the significance of metal-bridging aqueous complexes involving inorgan-ic arsenic and natural organic matter, 2.) In the con-text of in situ remediation, determining whether of metal oxides. Little is known about the quantitative significance competition of inorganic arsenic with other inorganic aqueous species in natu-ral systems. Experiments should be conducted with actual aquifer materials, as the effects of aging on arsenic desorption in laboratory studies are quite sig-nificant. 3.) Devise methods to detect and quantify rates of oxidation/reduction reactions of arsenic that are carried out by microorganisms at ambient concen-trations of arsenic and under in situ conditions. The findings from detailed field studies have the potential for greatly reducing the cost of meeting the new drinking-water standard for arsenic. The research would benefit a broad constituency.
Policy and Program Analysis
We present a methodology to support decision making at CALFED based on the principles of decision analysis, an analytical approach to decision making designed to handle complex decisions involving both uncertainty and multiple dimensions of value. The impetus for such an approach is a recognized need to enhance communication between scientists and management and between program elements within CALFED. In addition, the environmental decision analysis framework supports both the explicit representation of uncertainty in the decision problem and communication about risk, important elements of most environmental management decisions. The decision analysis cycle consists of four phases: 1) formulate, 2) evaluate, 3) appraise, and 4) decide. In phase one, we identify the objectives and also the alternatives, or possible actions. To facilitate inter-comparison between proposed actions, we recommend formulation of a set of common metrics for CALFED. In our pilot study, we introduced common metrics for salinity, winter-run Chinook salmon survival, and habitat health. The second phase focuses on quantifying possible impacts on the set of metrics, drawing on existing data, model runs, and expert opinions. For the evaluation phase, we employ tools such as decision trees to assess the system-wide impacts of a given action. In the final phase, tools such as expected cost-benefit analysis, value contribution diagrams, and 3-D tradeoff plots aid communication between various stakeholders, scientists, and managers. While decision analysis provides a spectrum of decision support tools, we emphasize that it does not dictate a solution but rather enhances communication about tradeoffs associated with different actions.