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Cold water released from Lake Shasta into the Sacramento River to benefit endangered salmon can be detrimental to young green sturgeon, a threatened species adapted to warmer water. But scientists at UC Santa Cruz and the National Marine Fisheries Service have found a way to minimize this apparent conflict through a water management strategy that benefits both species, while also meeting the needs of agricultural water users downstream.
Releases of cold water during the spring and summer create favorable spawning conditions in the Sacramento River for the endangered winter-run chinook salmon, which were cut off from their historical spawning grounds at higher elevations by the construction of Shasta Dam. Salmon eggs require cold water temperatures to survive, but juvenile green sturgeon need the lower flows and warmer temperatures typical of the main stem of the Sacramento River to grow and thrive.
Researchers - Modeling - Management - Scenario - Needs
The researchers used statistical modeling to see if there is an optimal management scenario that can meet the needs of both species along with those of downstream water users. Their results, published August 20 in the Journal of Applied Ecology, show that dam releases can be managed to achieve all three objectives in all but the most severe drought years.
"It's a win-win-win here in the sense that we're not giving up anything to get an improvement for the green sturgeon," said Eric Palkovacs, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at UC Santa Cruz and senior author of the paper. "Currently, the primary management objectives are keeping it cold for the salmon eggs and delivering enough water downstream. As a result, we've been refrigerating the river in regions where historically the green sturgeon have been spawning."
Author - Liam - Zarri - Study - UCSC
First author Liam Zarri conducted the study for his UCSC master's thesis, working with Palkovacs and coauthors Eric Danner and Miles Daniels at the National Marine...
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