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 6, Issue 3, 2008
Subsidence Reversal in a Re-established Wetland in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, California, USA
The stability of levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is threatened by continued subsidence of Delta peat islands. Up to 6 meters of land-surface elevation has been lost in the 150 years since Delta marshes were leveed and drained, primarily from oxidation of peat soils. Flooding subsided peat islands halts peat oxidation by creating anoxic soils, but net accumulation of new material in restored wetlands is required to recover land-surface elevations. We investigated the subsidence reversal potential of two 3 hectare, permanently flooded, impounded wetlands re-established on a deeply subsided field on Twitchell Island. The shallower wetland (design water depth 25 cm) was almost completely colonized by dense emergent marsh vegetation within two years; whereas, the deeper wetland (design water depth 55 cm) which developed spatially variable depths as a result of heterogeneous colonization by emergent vegetation, still had some areas remaining as open water after nine years. Changes in land-surface elevation were quantified using repeated sedimentation-erosion table measurements. New material accumulating in the wetlands was sampled by coring.
Land-surface elevations increased by an average of 4 cm/yr in both wetlands from 1997 to 2006; however, the rates at different sites in the wetlands ranged from -0.5 to +9.2 cm/yr. Open water areas of the deeper wetland without emergent vegetation had the lowest rates of land-surface elevation gain. The greatest rates occurred in areas of the deeper wetland most isolated from the river water inlets, with dense stands of emergent marsh vegetation (tules and cattails). Vegetated areas of the deeper wetland in the transition zones between open water and mature emergent stands had intermediate rates of land-surface gain, as did the entire shallower wetland. These results suggest that the dominant component contributing to land-surface elevation gain in these wetlands was accumulation of organic matter, rather than mineral sediment, and that accumulation of organic matter in emergent marshes is strongly affected by hydrologic factors. Re-established, non-tidal wetlands with managed hydrology can produce significant increases in land-surface elevations, which can help to improve levee stability and protect subsided islands from future flooding.
Understanding the Occurrence and Transport of Current-use Pesticides in the San Francisco Estuary Watershed
The occurrence and potential effects of current-use pesticides are of concern in the San Francisco Estuary watershed but our understanding of the spatial and temporal distribution of contamination is limited. This paper summarizes almost two decades of historical data and uses it to describe our current knowledge of the processes controlling the occurrence of current-use pesticides in the watershed. Monitoring studies analyze fewer than half of the pesticides applied in the watershed and most of our knowledge is about inputs of dissolved pesticides in the upper watershed. The four major seasonal patterns of riverine inputs of pesticides to the estuary can be identified by usage and transport mechanism. Dormant spray insecticides applied to orchards and herbicides applied to a variety of crops are transported by rainfall during the winter. Alfalfa pesticides are detected following rainfall and irrigation return flow in the spring, and rice pesticides are detected following release of rice field water in the summer. Irrigation return flows transport a variety of herbicides during the summer. In addition, pesticides applied on Delta islands can cause elevated pesticide concentrations in localized areas. Although not as well characterized, urban creeks appear to have their own patterns of insecticide concentrations causing toxicity throughout most of the year. Current-use pesticides have also been detected on suspended and bed sediments throughout the watershed but limited data make it difficult to determine occurrence patterns. Data gaps include the lack of analysis of many pesticides (or degradates), changing pesticide use, limited information on pesticide transport within the Delta, and an incomplete understanding of the transport and persistence of sediment-associated pesticides. Future monitoring programs should be designed to address these data gaps.
A sample design-based procedure for estimating pre-adult and adult delta smelt abundance is described. Using data from midwater trawl surveys taken during the months of September, October, November, and December for the years 1990 through 2006 and estimates of size selectivity of the gear from a covered codend experiment, stratified random sample ratio estimates of delta smelt abundance were made per month. The estimation procedure is arguably an improvement over the dimensionless delta smelt indices that have been used historically in that (1) the volume sampled is used in a manner that leads to directly interpretable numbers and (2) standard errors are easily calculated. The estimates are quite imprecise, i.e., coefficients of variation in the range of 100\% occurred. The point estimates are highly correlated with the monthly indices, and conclusions on abundance declines are quite similar. However, both the estimates and indices may suffer from selection biases if the trawl samples are not representative of the true densities. Future work is needed in at least three areas: (1) gathering additional information to determine the validity of assumptions made, in particular determining the possible degree of selection bias; (2) developing procedures that utilize survey data gathered from earlier life history stages, such as larval surveys; (3) embedding a life-history model into the population estimation procedure.