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 8, Issue 3, 2010
High variability in environmental conditions in both space and time once made the upper San Francisco Estuary (the Estuary) highly productive for native biota. Present conditions often discourage native species, providing a rationale for restoring estuarine variability and habitat complexity. Achieving a variable, more complex Estuary requires policies which: (1) establish internal Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta (the Delta) flows that create a tidally mixed, upstream–downstream gradient in water quality, with minimal cross-Delta flows; (2) create slough networks with more natural channel geometry and less diked, riprapped channel habitat; (3) increase inflows from the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers; (4) increase tidal marsh habitat, including shallow (1 to 2 m) subtidal areas, in both fresh and brackish zones of the Estuary; (5) create/allow large expanses of low salinity (1 to 4 ppt) open water habitat in the Delta; (6) create a hydrodynamic regime where salinities in the upper Estuary range from near-fresh to 8 to 10 ppt periodically, to discourage alien species and favor desirable species; (7) take species-specific actions that reduce abundance of non-native species and increase abundance of desirable species; (8) establish abundant annual floodplain habitat, with additional large areas that flood in less frequent wet years; (9) reduce inflow of agricultural and urban pollutants; and (10) improve the temperature regime in large areas of the Estuary so temperatures rarely exceed 20 °C during summer and fall months. These actions collectively provide a realistic if experimental approach to achieving flow and habitat objectives to benefit desirable species. Some of these goals are likely to be achieved without deliberate action as the result of sea level rise, climate change, and levee failures, but in the near term, habitat, flow restoration and export reduction projects can enhance a return to a more variable and more productive ecosystem.
Two multibeam sonar surveys of west-central San Francisco Bay, California, were conducted in 1997 and 2008. Bathymetric change analysis between the two surveys indicates a loss of 14.1 million cubic meters (-3.1 cm/yr) of sediment during this time period, representing an approximately three-fold acceleration of the rate that was observed from prior depth change analysis from 1947 to 1979 for all of Central Bay, using more spatially coarse National Ocean Service (NOS) soundings. The portions of the overlapping survey areas between 1997 and 2008 designated as aggregate mining lease sites lost sediment at five times the rate of the remainder of west-central San Francisco Bay. Despite covering only 28% of the analysis area, volume change within leasing areas accounted for 9.2 million cubic meters of sediment loss, while the rest of the area lost 4.9 million cubic meters of sediment. The uncertainty of this recent analysis is more tightly constrained due to more stringent controls on vertical and horizontal position via tightly coupled, inertially aided differential Global Positioning Systems (GPS) solutions for survey vessel trajectory that virtually eliminate inaccuracies from traditional tide modeling and vessel motion artifacts. Further, quantification of systematic depth measurement error can now be calculated through comparison of static surfaces (e.g., bedrock) between surveys using seafloor habitat maps based on acoustic backscatter measurements and ground-truthing with grab samples and underwater video. Sediment loss in the entire San Francisco Bay Coastal System during the last half-century, as estimated from a series of bathymetric change studies, is 240 million cubic meters, and most of this is believed to be coarse sediment (i.e., sand and gravel) from Central Bay and the San Francisco Bar, which is likely to limit the sand supply to adjacent, open-coast beaches. This hypothesis is supported by a calibrated numerical model in a related study that indicates that there is a potential net export of sand-sized sediment across the Golden Gate, suggesting that a reduction in the supply of sand-sized sediment within west-central San Francisco Bay will limit transport to the outer coast.
Land use is an ultimate driver of many of the stressors on the Upper San Francisco Estuary, but the magnitude and pattern of land use change has not been analyzed. This paper attempts to fill this knowledge gap through a screening-level risk assessment. Urban land use was compared within hydrodynamic subregions in 1990, 2000, and 2006. Ancillary data were then used to quantify secondary measures such as impervious cover, housing density, road density and road crossings. Despite the rapid growth of the Bay Area, Sacramento, and Stockton metropolitan areas, the percentage of urban area and rates of change in the subregions are generally low to moderate when compared to other estuaries in the United States. The spatial data sets used in this analysis have been posted online to a public repository to be used by other researchers.
Current and Long-Term Effects of Delta Water Quality on Drinking Water Treatment Costs from Disinfection Byproduct Formation
Sea level rise and the failure of subsided western islands are likely future conditions for the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. This study explores the current and long-term effects of changes in the Delta’s water quality on drinking treatment costs for alternative disinfection and additional disinfection byproduct (DBP) precursor removal. Current and likely future Delta water qualities were investigated for electrical conductivity and the concentrations of bromide, and organic carbon. With roughly 1.5 million acre-feet (af) per year of Delta water used for urban water supplies, the drinking water treatment cost differences of taking water from the south Delta and the Sacramento River upstream could amount to $30 to $90 million per year currently, and could rise to $200 to $1000 million per year in the future, with lower water quality and urban use of Delta waters rising to 2 million af annually. From these results, waters drawn directly from the Delta will likely become more difficult and expensive to treat, making the Delta less desirable as a conventional water source.