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 5, Issue 2, 2007
Organic Carbon and Disinfection Byproduct Precursor Loads from a Constructed, Non-Tidal Wetland in California's Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta
Wetland restoration on peat islands in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta will change the quality of island drainage waters entering the Delta, a primary source of drinking water in California. Peat island drainage waters contain high concentrations of dissolved and particulate organic carbon (DOC and POC) and organic precursors to drinking water disinfection byproducts, such as trihalomethanes (THMs). We quantified the net loads of DOC, POC, and THM-precursors from a constructed subsidence mitigation wetland on Twitchell Island in the Delta to determine the change in drainage water quality that may be caused by conversion of agricultural land on peat islands to permanently flooded, non-tidal wetlands. Creation of permanently flooded wetlands halts oxidative loss of the peat soils and thereby may mitigate the extensive land-surface subsidence of the islands that threatens levee stability in the Delta. Net loads from the wetland were dominated by DOC flushed from the oxidized shallow peat soil layer by seepage flow out of the wetland. The permanently flooded conditions in the overlying wetland resulted in a gradual evolution to anaerobic conditions in the shallow soil layer and a concomitant decrease in the flow could be minimized by reducing the hydraulic gradient between the wetland and the adjacent drainage ditch. Estimates of net loads from the wetland assuming efflux of surface water only were comparable in magnitude to net loads from nearby agricultural fields, but the wetland and agricultural net loads had opposite seasonal variations. Wetland surface water net loads of DOC, POC, and THM-precursors were lower during the winter months when the greatest amounts of water are available for diversion from the Delta to drinking water reservoirs.
Processes Affecting Agricultural Drainwater Quality and Organic Carbon Loads in California's Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta
From 2000 to 2003 we quantified drain flow, drain-and ground-water chemistry and hydrogeologic conditions on Twitchell Island in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The primary objective was to quantify processes affecting organic carbon concentrations and loads in agricultural drainage water. We collected physical and chemical data in southern and northern areas: TN and TS, respectively. Corn grew in both areas during the spring and summer. The peat soils in the TN area are more decomposed than those in the TS area. Results elucidate processes affecting drain flow and concentrations under varying hydrologic conditions. During May through November, groundwater flows from the permanently saturated zone to drainage ditches, and the resulting average drainage-water quality and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentration was similar to the groundwater; the median DOC loads in the TN and TS study areas ranged from 9 to 27 g C/ha-day. The major ion chemistry and stable isotope data confirmed that groundwater was the primary source of drainflow. In contrast, during December through April the drainwater is supplied from the shallow, variably saturated soil-zone. The DOC concentrations, major-ion chemistry, and stable isotope data indicate that the shallow-zone water is partially evaporated and oxidized. Higher flows and DOC concentrations during these months result in higher median DOC loads, which ranged from 84 to 280 g C/ha-day.
During December through April, increasing groundwater levels in the shallow peat layers and mobilization of organic carbon result in high drain flow and increased trihalomethane precursor concentrations and loads. On a per mass DOC basis, drain water collected during high flow periods is less likely to form THMs than during low flow periods. However, the high flows and subsequent high concentrations contribute to substantially higher trihalomethane precursor and DOC loads.
This study tested whether analyzers using different methods were equally capable of measuring organic carbon in diverse environmental water samples from California’s Sacramento/San Joaquin Delta and its watersheds. The study also evaluated whether the different instruments might provide differing organic carbon concentration measurements, which could in turn trigger (or not) a regulatory requirement for enhanced coagulation at a water treatment plant. In Phase 1, samples were collected in eight monthly events at five stations associated with California’s State Water Project and analyzed using three high temperature combustion and three chemical oxidation instruments. Significant differences between instruments occurred in only 20% of the analyses. However, 80% of the observed differences were attributed to one combustion instrument that reported higher values compared to the other instruments. In Phase 2, four certified standards were analyzed with nine instruments. Results suggested that the main contributor of the observed differences was some instruments’ inability to remove inorganic carbon, an important step in the analytical process. There were no significant differences in the frequencies at which different instruments would have prescribed enhanced coagulation at a water treatment plant. We concluded that properly operating instruments using any of the standard methods were equally capable of analyzing the diverse concentration levels of organic carbon in the Delta.
Predation is one mechanism that could lead to low native fish abundance in macrophyte dominated shallow-water habitats in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. We used beach seine and gill net sampling to identify and compare the distribution and feeding ecology of three piscivores (striped bass, Morone saxatilis, largemouth bass, Micropterus salmoides, and Sacramento pikeminnow, Ptychocheilus grandis) at five nearshore sites in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Sampling was conducted March-October 2001 and 2003. We addressed the following questions. What are the spatial and temporal distributions of age-1 and older striped bass, largemouth bass, and Sacramento pikeminnow? What prey are eaten by these predators? What is the relative importance of predator size versus seasonal prey availability on incidence of piscivory for these predators? What is the likely per capita impact of each piscivore on prey fishes, particularly native fishes? All 76 of our individual station visits yielded at least one of the three species, suggesting that piscivorous fishes frequently occur in Delta shallow-water habitats. All three piscivores had diverse diets.There were noticeable seasonal shifts in prey fish for each of the three piscivores. In general, most native fish were consumed during spring (March-May) and the highest prey species richness occurred during summer (June-August). Largemouth bass likely have the highest per capita impact on nearshore fishes, including native fishes. Largemouth bass preyed on a greater diversity of native fishes than the other two piscivores and consumed native fishes farther into the season (July versus May). Based on binomial generalized additive models, incidence of piscivory was predominantly a function of size for largemouth bass and Sacramento pikeminnow. Largemouth bass became predominantly piscivorous at smaller sizes than Sacramento pikeminnow; about 115 mm versus about 190 mm respectively. In contrast, incidence of piscivory was predominantly a function of season for striped bass. Striped bass were typically most piscivorous during summer and fall regardless of size. We conclude that shallow-water piscivores are widespread in the Delta and generally respond in a density-dependent manner to seasonal changes in prey availability.