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Open Access Publications from the University of California


SFEWS provides credible scientific information on California's complex water issues, linking new science to policy with great effect. SFEWS retains a regional focus on the San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, also known as the Bay–Delta watershed. At the heart of open access from the California Digital Library, SFEWS's scholarly output ranks #1 for the UC Davis Institute  of the Environment and ranks #3 campus wide.

Volume 16, Issue 2, 2018

Issue cover

Research Article

Toward Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse Recovery: A Review

The salt marsh harvest mouse (SMHM, Reithrodontomys raviventris) is an endangered species, endemic to the San Francisco Estuary. Despite being protected for almost half a century and being included in a large number of recovery, restoration, and management plans, significant data gaps hinder conservation and management of the species, a challenge further complicated by developing threats such as climate change. In this review, we present the current state of knowledge; highlight research gaps on habitat requirements and distribution, taxonomic status and genetic structure, physiology, reproduction and demographics, population dynamics, and behavior and community interactions; and present an overview of threats to the species. Our review indicates that substantial data gaps exist; although some aspects of SMHM ecology, such as habitat use, have been addressed extensively, others, such as the effects of environmental contamination, are largely unaddressed. We suggest that conservation and restoration-planning processes consider experimental approaches within restoration designs to address these deficiencies. Continued investment in basic and applied SMHM ecology to collect baseline and long-term data will also be beneficial. Additionally, further coordination among managers and researchers can facilitate more effective responses to uncertainties and emerging threats, especially climate change, which threatens the SMHM and its habitat throughout its range.

  • 1 supplemental PDF

Managing for Salmon Resilience in California’s Variable and Changing Climate

California’s salmonids are at the southern limits of their individual species’ ranges, and display a wide diversity of strategies to survive in California’s highly variable climate. Land use changes after statehood in 1850 eliminated important habitats, or blocked access to them, and reduced the abundance, productivity, and distribution of California’s salmon. Habitat simplification, fishing, hatchery impacts, and other stressors led to the loss of genetic and phenotypic (life history, morphological, behavioral, and physiological) diversity in salmonids. Limited diversity and habitat loss left California salmon with reduced capacity to cope with a variable and changing climate. Since 1976, California has experienced frequent droughts, as were common in the paleo-climatological record, but rare in the peak dam-building era of 1936–1976. Increasing temperatures and decreasing snowpacks have produced harsher conditions for California’s salmon in their current habitats than they experienced historically. The most likely way to promote salmon productivity and persistence in California is to restore habitat diversity, reconnect migratory corridors to spawning and rearing habitats, and refocus management to replenish the genetic and phenotypic diversity of these southernmost populations.

Survival of Juvenile Chinook Salmon in the Yolo Bypass and the Lower Sacramento River, California

While our knowledge of the range of survival that outmigrating juvenile Chinook Salmon experience in different routes of the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta has increased in recent years, few studies have focused on their survival during outmigration in the Yolo Bypass, the Delta’s primary floodplain. The Yolo Bypass floodplain provides valuable rearing habitat and growth benefits to juvenile fish in flood years, and efforts are underway to improve access to the Yolo Bypass and the Toe Drain, its perennial navigation channel, under a broader range of flows and river stages than is currently possible. We compared variation in transit time, and estimated survival between different release groups of fish outmigrating through the Yolo Bypass or through migratory routes in the lower Sacramento River. Tagged late-fall-run juvenile Chinook Salmon were released in both systems in 2012 and 2013. There was no significant difference between the estimated cumulative probability of survival in the Yolo Bypass system and combined routes of the lower Sacramento River in either year (0.312–0.629 vs. 0.342–0.599, 95% credible interval in 2012; and 0.111–0.408 vs. 0.240–0.407, 95% credible interval in 2013, respectively). The Yolo Bypass had a higher coefficient of variation (CV) in travel time relative to the lower Sacramento River routes in both years (0.34 vs. 0.29 in 2012, and 0.44 vs. 0.34 in 2013). This work suggests that in relatively low water years, the estimated survival of outmigrating juvenile Chinook Salmon in the Toe Drain is directly comparable to routes in the lower Sacramento River, and that metrics of behavioral diversity in movement behavior can and should be incorporated into future telemetry studies.

The Effect of Submersed Aquatic Vegetation on Invertebrates Important in Diets of Juvenile Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides

A suite of submersed aquatic vegetation (SAV) species, and especially Brazilian Waterweed (Egeria densa), has proliferated rapidly in California’s Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta. This expansion is concurrent with population declines in native fish species and increases in many non-native fish species, including Largemouth Bass Micropterus salmoides. In this study, we investigated the effect of SAV species composition and E. densa specifically on macroinvertebrate communities and juvenile Largemouth Bass diets. Invertebrate communities differed across sites in the Delta, driven primarily by changes in abundance of the amphipod Hyalella sp., oligochaetes, ostracods, and insect larvae of the family Chironomidae. Juvenile Largemouth Bass consistently consumed SAV-associated invertebrates, and preferentially consumed larger taxa, when available. Gut fullness of juvenile Largemouth Bass was lowest in sites dominated by E. densa, although there was no clear mechanism for this difference. However, SAV species composition had little effect on abundance of Hyalella sp., chironomid larvae, or damselfly naiads, prey items commonly consumed by juvenile Largemouth Bass. Our results suggest that E. densa does not provide a qualitative increase in macroinvertebrate food for fishes compared to other SAV species.

  • 3 supplemental PDFs

Evaluation of the Delta Simulation Model-2 in Computing Tidally Driven Flows in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta

We investigate the fidelity of the Delta Simulation Model-2 (DSM2), a one-dimensional branched network hydrodynamics solver, which is used to model water quality and ecology in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta estuary. We find that while DSM2 reproduces the total flows well, it does not accurately represent the harmonic components of the tides and tidal modulation of subtidal flow. The inaccurate representation of tidal dynamics affects prediction of subtidal flows, flow splits at key junctions, and salinity. These deviations are the result of coarse spatial and temporal representation of tides as well as unrepresented estuarine physical processes. We propose and evaluate two types of schemes intended to improve fidelity: modifying the model domain and specifying fine grid and boundary conditions, and incorporating and parameterizing more complex physical processes into the 1-D model. We also develop a comprehensive protocol to evaluate the model in which we assess the fidelity of model results. In this protocol, we also include a decomposition of the model error into a systematic component because of model representation, and an unsystematic component, which includes errors from both unmodeled physical processes and data precision. Our analysis reveals that these recommendations would be effective provided they can be incorporated with model recalibration. Both our proposed schemes and the model evaluation process will be useful in analyzing models of networked surface water systems such as the Delta in which the distribution of observations is spatially inhomogeneous.

  • 1 supplemental PDF