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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 21, Issue 4, 2023

Issue cover
Juvenile salmon from the Feather River Fish Hatchery in Oroville, California navigate the nearby fish ponds at the Thermalito Afterbay Complex after being trucked there to avoid the cloudy waters caused by the damage at the Lake Oroville flood control spillway in Butte County. Photo: Kelly M. Grow / California Dept. of Water Resources. Public domain.


Keeping Water in Climate-Changed Headwaters Longer

Abstracts are not associated with Essays. –the SFEWS Editors


Proofing Field and Laboratory Species Identification Procedures Developed for the Non-Native Osmerid Species Wakasagi (Hypomesus nipponensis) Using SHERLOCK-Based Genetic Verification

Accurate species identification is critical to monitoring programs because mis-identifications can lead to incorrect assessments of population status and trends. In the San Francisco Estuary, efforts to monitor the imperiled osmerid Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus) using morphology can be challenging because of the presence of the similar-looking non-native osmerid Wakasagi (Hypomesus nipponensis). In 2017, the US Fish and Wildlife Service’s field office in Lodi implemented a two-stage verification process for Wakasagi to help prevent Delta Smelt from being mis-identified as Wakasagi. Under this process, Wakasagi are initially identified in the field, independently identified a second time by an experienced staff member in the laboratory, then stored on-site where they can be made available for future studies. Using the recently developed Specific High-sensitivity Enzymatic Reporter un-LOCKing (SHERLOCK) assay for Wakasagi, we evaluated how well verification protocols performed by genetically identifying a subset of Wakasagi collected during routine sampling between 2017 and 2021. Through this study, we found that the protocols have served as an effective quality control measure for over 4 years and across multiple surveys. With the development of field-deployable genetics tools such as SHERLOCK, genetic identification will likely play an increasingly important role in ecological monitoring. We expect that hybrid approaches that combine morphological identifications by trained field crew with application of field-based genetic tools may offer an effective and efficient approach to ensuring data accuracy in the future.

  • 1 supplemental PDF

Research Article

Comparing Fishery Impacts and Maturation Schedules of Hatchery-Origin vs. Natural-Origin Fish from a Threatened Chinook Salmon Stock

Central Valley Spring-run Chinook (CVSC) are listed as threatened under the California and federal Endangered Species Acts, but how ocean fisheries affect CVSC is not routinely monitored or managed , largely because of data limitations. Most tag data for CVSC are from a hatchery program that may not sufficiently represent natural-origin fish in ocean and inland fishery recovery data. However, a discontinued tagging program for Butte Creek Wild Spring-run Chinook (BCWSC) provides for estimation of fishery impacts and maturation schedules for a limited set of years, which we compared with estimates for hatchery-origin fish for common years, while extending the hatchery-origin estimates over a wider time-frame. Additional scale-age data from BCWSC allow inferences about more recent maturation rates, conditional on harvest-rate estimates borrowed from other stocks. Overall, CVSC appear to experience low age-3 ocean fishery impact rates, but age-4 impact rates can be comparable to ocean harvest rates estimated for Sacramento River Fall Chinook. Tagging data from the years available indicate that ocean fisheries may reduce spawning run sizes  (all ages combined) by 40% to 60% during periods of high fishing effort. Effects of ocean fishing on spawner abundance are weaker in years of reduced fishing or for cohorts displaying earlier maturation. It appears that maturation rates of hatchery-origin CVSC may have increased (i.e., earlier maturation) over the full time-period examined, and there may be indications of increasing maturation rates for BCWSC as well.

  • 5 supplemental PDFs

Diets of Native and Non-Native Piscivores in the Stanislaus River, California, Under Contrasting Hydrologic Conditions

The fish communities of the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta and its tributaries in California’s Central Valley have been irreparably altered through introductions of numerous fish species, including Striped Bass (Morone saxatilis), black bass (Micropterus spp.), and catfishes (Ameiurus spp. and Ictalurus spp.). Research into how predation by non-native piscivores affects native anadromous species has focused on the Sacramento and San Joaquin river mainstems and Delta habitats, through which all anadromous species must pass. Yet, the ranges of non-native fishes extend into upstream tributaries. We collected diets from native and non-native piscivores in the Stanislaus River, a tributary to the San Joaquin River and a remaining stronghold for native fishes. Piscivorous fishes primarily consumed invertebrates and the native species fall-run Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) and Pacific Lamprey (Entosphenus tridentatus). Juvenile Chinook Salmon and Pacific Lamprey were consumed at higher frequencies than any other potential fish prey species, particularly by Striped Bass and black bass. The frequency of native fishes in predator diets was similar across years, despite contrasting hydrologic conditions; 2019 (wet year), 2020 (dry year), and 2021 (critically dry year). Our results show that Pacific Lamprey were frequently consumed by native and non-native piscivores, and that juvenile Chinook Salmon experience substantial predation early in their migration, regardless of hydrologic conditions.

  • 1 supplemental PDF

A Simple Approach to Modeling Light Attenuation in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta Using Commonly Available Data

The diffuse attenuation coefficient of photosynthetically active radiation (KdPAR) is commonly used to predict light attenuation in aquatic productivity models, but obtaining measurements of PAR to compute KdPAR is difficult. In situ calculations of KdPAR require multiple measurements of PAR through the water column, and these measurements are infeasible for real-time recording. Instead, predictive models using surface-water measurements may be used. Traditional KdPAR models are based on open-ocean habitats and rely on chlorophyll—as a proxy measurement for phytoplankton abundance—as the main predictive parameter. However, elevated suspended sediments and dissolved organic materials may also affect KdPAR values of inland water bodies and estuaries. In this study, we leverage KdPAR calculations derived from in situ light measurements collected along with surface-water-quality parameters across the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in California, USA (the Delta). Sampling occurred between January of 2013 and May of 2014. We also explored regional and seasonal effects, but these did not clearly affect the model. Ultimately, the best-performing model included surface-level turbidity only (R2 = 0.91). The simplicity of the model facilitates use of KdPAR estimates for a variety of purposes throughout the Delta, including euphotic depth calculations, and as inputs to primary-productivity and habitat-suitability models. We demonstrate the model’s usability with two open-sources data sets (one spatially dense, and one temporally dense), and estimate KdPAR, euphotic depth, and primary productivity within the Delta. We provide calculations for each estimation, allowing users to easily adopt these models and apply them to their own data or with open-sourced data, which are abundant.

A Simplified Approach for Estimating Ionic Concentrations from Specific Conductance Data in the San Francisco Estuary

This work presents a simplified approach for estimating ionic concentrations from specific electrical conductance (EC) data in the San Francisco Estuary. Monitoring the EC of water through electrodes is simple and inexpensive. As a result, a wealth of high-resolution time-series data is available to indirectly estimate salinity concentrations and, by extension, seawater intrusion throughout the study domain. However, scientists and managers are also interested in quantifying ionic (e.g., bromide, chloride) and total dissolved solids (TDS) concentrations to meet water-quality regulations, protect beneficial uses, support environmental analyses, and track source-water dominance. These constituent concentrations, reported with lower spatial and temporal resolution than EC, are typically measured in the laboratory from discrete (grab) water samples. We divided the study domain into four unique regions to estimate concentrations of major ions and TDS as mathematical functions of measured or model-simulated EC. Salinity relationships in three of the four regions—regions that represent Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) inflow and seawater-dominated boundaries—reflect ionic make-ups that are either independent of or weakly dependent on season and hydrologic condition, and are highly correlated with EC. The fourth region—represented by the interior Delta—exhibits salinity characteristics associated with complex-boundary source-water mixing that varies by season and hydrologic condition. We introduce a novel method to estimate ionic and dissolved solids concentrations within this fourth region, given month, water year type, and (optionally) X2 isohaline position, which allows for more accurate EC-based estimates than previously available. The resulting approach, while not a substitute for hydrodynamic modeling, can provide useful information under constrained schedules and budgets.

  • 2 supplemental PDFs