Science news and reports: USGS Synthesis of studies in the fall low-salinity zone of the San Francisco Estuary, plus aquatic plants, El Nino, big data and more …

Intermittent Lorenz Attractor by Anders Sandberg
Intermittent Lorenz Attractor by Anders Sandberg

Synthesis of studies in the fall low-salinity zone of the San Francisco Estuary, September-December 2011:In fall 2011, a large-scale investigation (fall low-salinity habitat investigation) was implemented by the Bureau of Reclamation in cooperation with the Interagency Ecological Program to explore hypotheses about the ecological role of low-salinity habitat in the San Francisco Estuary—specifically, hypotheses about the importance of fall low-salinity habitat to the biology of delta smelt Hypomesus transpacificus, a species endemic to the San Francisco Estuary and listed as threatened or endangered under federal and state endangered species legislation. The Interagency Ecological Program is a consortium of 10 agencies that work together to develop a better understanding of the ecology of the Estuary and the effects of the State Water Project and Federal Central Valley Project operations on the physical, chemical, and biological conditions of the San Francisco Estuary. The fall low-salinity habitat investigation constitutes one of the actions stipulated in the Reasonable and Prudent Alternative issued with the 2008 Biological Opinion of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which called for adaptive management of fall Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta outflow following “wet” and “above normal” water years to alleviate jeopardy to delta smelt and adverse modification of delta smelt critical habitat. The basic hypothesis of the adaptive management of fall low-salinity habitat is that greater outflows move the low-salinity zone (salinity 1–6), an important component of delta smelt habitat, westward and that moving the low-salinity zone westward of its position in the fall of recent years will benefit delta smelt, although the specific mechanisms providing such benefit are uncertain. An adaptive management plan was prepared to guide implementation of the adaptive management of fall low-salinity habitat and to reduce uncertainty. … ”  Read more from the USGS here:  Synthesis of studies in the fall low-salinity zone of the San Francisco Estuary, September-December 2011

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‘Aquatic plants: prime but unsung habitat for salmon:For decades, California’s management and restoration of salmon and trout populations have focused on principles rooted in coastal redwood streams, mostly fed by rainfall runoff. These concepts portray ideal salmonid habitat as deep pools, shallow riffles and “large woody debris,” such as fallen trees and limbs.  Recent studies on spring-fed streams challenges this mindset. The findings strongly suggest these streams should play a larger role in the recovery and management of sensitive cold-water species, particularly salmonids. ... ”  Read more from the California Water Blog here:  Aquatic plants: prime but unsung habitat for salmon

FishBio blog attends the Bay-Delta Science Conference: Scientific issues in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and San Francisco Bay (“Bay Delta”) are so complex and wide-ranging that conferences related to the region become a bit of a reunion for the diverse array of research groups, agencies, and universities involved in the study of this important ecosystem. FISHBIO staff attended the recent 2014 Bay Delta Science Conference in Sacramento, where we presented two talks on our recent work, attended many others, and had several thoughtful discussions and idea exchanges related to fisheries research.  FISHBIO Principal Andrea Fuller gave a presentation highlighting the recently completed Honolulu Bar restoration project on the Stanislaus River. ... ”  More from the FishBio blog, including power point presentations here: Spotlight on the Bay Delta

Ocean primed for more El Niño, experts say: The ocean is warming steadily and setting up the conditions for stronger El Niño weather events, a new study has shown.  A team of US, Australian, and Canadian researchers sampled corals from a remote island in Kiribati to build a 60-year record of ocean surface temperature and salinity.  “The trend is unmistakeable, the ocean’s primed for more El Niño events,” says lead-author Dr Jessica Carilli, now based at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. … ”  Read more from Science Daily here: Ocean primed for more El Niño, experts say

Betting on climate predictions:  “Pretend someone is willing to bet you $50 that El Niño will not occur. Before you jump at it, you might want to know what the chances of El Niño are, right?   So you then look up your favorite model prediction and discover there is a 90% chance of El Niño.  The odds are in your favor.  You go for it and take the bet.  But something happens and you lose. El Niño doesn’t occur.  Oh the horror!  Does that mean the model is totally useless?  After all it forecasted a 90% percent chance of an El Niño and it didn’t happen.  You might think that means the model was awful and next time you may not trust your money with such a prediction. … ”  Read more from the ENSO blog here:  Betting on climate predictions

Big Data Companies Agree: Farmers Should Own Their Information: “Some of the biggest names in American agriculture, ranging from farmers’ organizations to private companies like Monsanto and DuPont, have agreed on principles governing the use of data collected from farms.  That data increasingly drives farm operations. Tractors and combines carry sensors that record — and upload to the data “cloud” — what happens on each spot of a farmer’s field, from how much fertilizer and seed it received to how much grain it produced to what type of soil is found there. That data, once analyzed, guides decisions about what seeds a farmer will plant. … ”  Read more from North Country Public Radio here: Big Data Companies Agree: Farmers Should Own Their Information

SFEWS_LogoFrom the archives of the San Francisco Estuary Watershed Science journal ….

  • Effects of Flow Diversions on Water and Habitat Quality: Examples from California’s Highly Manipulated Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta:  by Nancy E. Monsen, James E. Cloern, and Jon R. Burau (2007) Abstract:  “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 pro- portion 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 fresh- water 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.”  Click here to download the report from the San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Journal.


Maven’s XKCD comic pick of the week …

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