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 3, 2007
Fishes were sampled on the restored floodplain of the Cosumnes River in Central California in order to determine patterns of floodplain use. The floodplain was sampled for seven years (1998-2002, 2004-2005) during the winter-spring flooding season. The fishes fell into five groups: (1) floodplain spawners, (2) river spawners, (3) floodplain foragers, (4) floodplain pond fishes, and (5) inadvertent users. Eight of the 18 abundant species were natives, while the rest were aliens. There was a consistent pattern of floodplain use, modified by timing and extent of flooding. The first fishes to appear were floodplain foragers, inadvertent users, and juvenile Chinook salmon (river spawners). Next were floodplain spawners, principally Sacramento splittail and common carp. At the end of the season, in ponds of residual water, non-native annual fishes, mainly inland silverside and western mosquitofish, became abundant. Adult spawners left when inflow decreased; their juveniles persisted as long as flood pulses kept water levels up and temperatures low. Juvenile splittail and carp quickly grew large enough to dominate floodplain fish samples, along with smaller numbers of juvenile Sacramento sucker and pikeminnow (river spawners). Such juveniles left the Relatively few fishes that used the floodplain for spawning or rearing became stranded, except late season alien fishes. Most alien fishes had resident populations in adjacent river, sloughs, and ditches and were not dependent on the floodplain for persistence. This indicates that Central Valley floodplains managed to favor native fishes should have the following char- acteristics: (1) extensive early season flooding, (2) complete drainage by the end of the flooding season, (3) few areas with permanent water, (4) a mosaic of physical habitats, (5) regular annual flooding but with high variability in flood regime.
Effects of Flow Diversions on Water and Habitat Quality: Examples from California's Highly Manipulated Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta
We use selected monitoring data to illustrate how localized water diversions from seasonal barriers, gate operations, and export pumps alter water quality across the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (California). Dynamics of water-quality variability are complex because the Delta is a mixing zone of water from the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers, agricultural return water, and the San Francisco Estuary. Each source has distinct water-quality characteristics, and the contribution of each source varies in response to natural hydrologic variability and water diversions. We use simulations with a tidal hydrodynamic model to reveal how three diversion events, as case studies, influence water quality through their alteration of Delta-wide water circulation patterns and flushing time. Reduction of export pumping decreases the proportion of Sacramento- to San Joaquin-derived fresh water in the central Delta, leading to rapid increases in salinity. Delta Cross Channel gate operations control salinity in the western Delta and alter the freshwater source distribution in the central Delta. Removal of the head of Old River barrier, in autumn, increases the flushing time of the Stockton Ship Channel from days to weeks, contributing to a depletion of dissolved oxygen. Each shift in water quality has implications either for habitat quality or municipal drinking water, illustrating the importance of a systems view to anticipate the suite of changes induced by flow manipulations, and to minimize the conflicts inherent in allocations of scarce resources to meet multiple objectives.
Interest is great in projects that would restore Central Valley steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and Central Valley Chinook salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) to California drainages where they have historically existed and where there is good quality habitat upstream of instream barriers. The Calaveras River has garnered renewed attention for its potential to support these anadromous fish. I evaluated migration opportunity in the Calaveras River, and whether these salmonids could have been present in the river historically, by comparing historical anecdotal and documented observations of Chinook salmon and steelhead to recorded flows in the river and Mormon Slough, the primary migration corridors. Collected data show that these fish used the river before New Hogan Dam was constructed in 1964. Three different Central Valley Chinook salmon runs, including fall-, late-fall- and spring-run salmon, and steelhead may have used the river before the construction of New Hogan Dam. Fall and possibly winter run and steelhead used the river after dam construction. The timing and amount of flows in the Calaveras River, both before and after the construction of New Hogan Dam, provided ample opportunity for salmonids to migrate up the river in the fall, winter, and spring seasons when they were observed. Flows less than 2.8 m3/s (100 ft3/s) can attract fish into the lower river channel and this was likely the case in the past, as well. Even in dry years of the past, flows in the river exceeded 5.6 m3/s (200 ft3/s), enough for fish to migrate and spawn. Today, instream barriers and river regulation, which reduced the number of high flow events, has led to fewer opportunities for salmon to enter the river and move upstream to spawning areas even though upstream spawning conditions are still adequate. Improving migration conditions would allow salmonids to utilize upstream spawning areas once again.