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  California Water Science Center

Aquatic Ecology: Cycle I Activities (1991 - 2001)

Retrospective Analysis
The review and analysis of existing aquatic ecological data provide a historical perspective on the aquatic ecology in the Study Unit and are used to assess strengths and weaknesses of available information and to evaluate initial priorities for study design.

Reference:
Brown, L.R., 1996, Aquatic Biology of the San Joaquin-Tulare Basins, California: Analysis of Available Data Through 1992, U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 2471, 89 p.

Aquatic Ecology: Study Design

Ecological Studies are an integral part of the approach used by NAWQA to assess water quality. Information on biological communities and habitat characteristics contributes to the conceptual model of factors that affect water quality and to improved understanding of the relation among physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of streams. Fixed-Reach Assessments and Intensive Ecological Assessments provide an initial evaluation of the linkages among physical, chemical, and biological conditions within the Study Unit. Ecological Synoptic Studies provide a much more complete geographic representation within the Study Unit, but for a more limited set of physical, chemical, and biological characteristics.

Photo of Aquatic Ecology Sampling

Three taxonomic groups--fish, invertebrates, and algae--are sampled because they respond differently to various environmental stresses. Fish are valuable biological indicators of long-term water-resource conditions because they are long lived (years to decades) and have considerable economic value and public interest. Benthic invertebrates (aquatic insects, mollusks, crustaceans, worms) have life cycles (from months to a few years) that are intermediate between fish and algae, have close association with streambed sediments, and can be used for characterizing changes in water quality over small spatial area. Algae respond quickly (within days to weeks) to changes in their environment and serve as valuable biological indicators of rapid changes in water-resource conditions.

Gilliom, R.J., Alley, W.M., and Gurtz, M.E., 1995, Design of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program--Occurrence and distribution of water-quality conditions: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1112, 33 p.

Ecological Studies: Fixed Reach Assessment

Ecological studies combine descriptions of fish, benthic invertebrate and algal communities, and habitats with physical and chemical data to provide an integrated assessment of water quality within selected environmental settings. These studies are used to assess trends in water quality, and investigate the influence of major natural and human factors on water quality.

Data Collected:
Algae, benthic invertebrates, and fish were collected, and instream and riparian habitats were described at 13 sites in September 1993.

Three types of algae and invertebrate samples were collected:

  • The richest targeted habitat samples were collected from the habitat expected to yield the greatest diversity of organisms and therefore expected to be the most sensitive to change because potential changes are the largest. Relative abundance data were obtained. 
  • The depositional targeted habitat samples were collected where fine grained sediments are most abundant. These samples were expected to be sensitive to contaminants adsorbed to sediment particles because it samples organisms most closely associated with that habitat. Relative abundance data were obtained.
  • The qualitative multi-habitat samples were collected from all habitat types present to establish species richness. These samples were expected to be sensitive to loss of sensitive species that might be missed by the more specific samples. Only presence/absence data were obtained. A single fish sample was taken, providing data on relative abundance of species at the site.
Location of Ecological Fixed_Reach Assessment Sites

Ecological Studies: Intensive Ecological Assessment

The Intensive Ecological Assessment was done to provide information on spatial and temporal variability of biological communities and habitat characteristics. Spatial variability was addressed by sampling three similar reaches at three stream sites (Multi-Reach Assessment). Temporal variability was addressed by sampling one reach at each site annually during the three-year intensive data collection period (1993, 1994, 1995) (Single-Reach, Multi-Year Assessment).

Data Collected:
  • Multi-Reach Assessment: fish, invertebrates, and algae were collected and identified, and habitat characteristics were described for three reaches at each of three sites (Tuolumne River at Modesto, Stanislaus River near Ripon, and Merced River at River Road sites) in 1995.
  • Single-Reach, Multi-Year Assessment: One reach on the three aforementioned sites and on the Merced River at Happy Isles Bridge site were sampled in 1993, 1994, and 1995.

Location of Intensive Ecological Assessment Sites

Ecological Studies: Community Assessment Synoptic

The Ecological Synoptic Study completed in 1994 had two primary purposes. First, additional sites were sampled on the lower mainstem San Joaquin River and the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced Rivers, below the reservoirs to improve spatial coverage of the Fixed-Reach Assessment on each river and to facilitate comparison of ecological communities among rivers. Second, a number of locations upstream of Lake McClure on the Merced River were sampled, including several sites in Yosemite National Park. Data from these samples were used to analyze the ecological communities of the least-altered Sierra Nevada river in the study unit and to establish a database of background information for future studies.

Data Collected:
Fish and algae data were collected at 7 sites in 1993, 25 sites in 1994. A total of 32 sites were sampled.

Location of Ecosynoptic Sites

References:
Brown, L.R., 2000, Fish communities and their associations with environmental variables, lower San Joaquin River drainage, California: Environmental Biology of Fishes 57:251-269.

Brown, L.R., and May, J.T., 2000, Benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages and their relations with environmental variables in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Drainages, California: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 00-4125, 25 p.

Brown, L.R., and May, J.T., 2000, Macroinvertebrate assemblages on woody debris and their relations with environmental variables in the lower Sacramento and San Joaquin river drainages, California: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 64:311-329.

Leland, H.V., L.R. Brown,and D.K. Mueller., 2001, Distribution of algae in the San Joaquin River, California, in relation to nutrient supply, salinity, and other environmental factors. Freshwater Biology 46:1139-1167.


Aquatic Ecology Data

Aquatic Ecology Data include descriptions of fish, benthic invertebrate and algal communities, and habitat. At this time only the fish data is available.

Fish Data:
The following files are in a tab-delimited ascii format. An explanation of the format and content of the files is in the file readme.fsh. A listing of the site information is in the file fish.sitetable.

File
Data Type
Date
Reach
Station Name
FSH
09-21-93
A
SAN JOAQUIN R NR VERNALIS CA
FSH
08-05-94
A
SAN JOAQUIN R NR VERNALIS CA
FSH
09-22-93
A
SAN JOAQUIN R A PATTERSON BR NR PATTERSON CA
FSH
08-03-94
A
SAN JOAQUIN R A PATTERSON BR NR PATTERSON CA
FSH
08-03-94
A
SAN JOAQUIN R AT MAZE RD BRIDGE NR MODESTO CA
FSH
08-09-94
A
SAN JOAQUIN R A FREMONT FORD BR NR STEV CA
FSH
09-29-93
A
MOKELUMNE R A WOODBRIDGE CA
FSH
08-03-93
A
STANISLAUS R A RIPON CA
FSH
08-02-94
A
STANISLAUS R A RIPON CA
FSH
08-01-95
B
STANISLAUSR A RIPON CA
FSH
08-01-95
A
STANISLAUS R A RIPON CA
FSH
08-01-95
C
STANISLAUSR A RIPON CA
FSH
08-01-94
A
STANISLAUS R A CASWELL STATE PARK NR RIPON CA
FSH
08-11-94
A
STANISLAUS R A RIVERBANK CA
>FSH
09-01-94
A
STANISLAUS R A MILE 50 NR KNIGHTS FERRY CA
FSH
08-04-93
A
TUOLUMNE R A MODESTO CA
FSH
08-08-94
A
TUOLUMNE R A MODESTO CA
FSH
08-03-95
A
TUOLUMNE R A MODESTO CA
FSH
07-31-95
B
TUOLUMNE R A MODESTO CA
FSH
08-03-95
C
TUOLUMNE R A MODESTO CA
FSH
08-01-94
A
TUOLUMNE R A HICKMAN NR WATERFORD CA
FSH
08-10-94
A
TUOLUMNE R A TURLOCK LK STATE PK NR TURLOCK LK CA
FSH
08-12-94
A
TUOLUMNE R A SHILOH RD BRIDGE NR GRAYSON CA
FSH
09-17-93
A
SPANISHGRANT COMBINED DRAIN NR PATTERSON CA
FSH
09-17-93
A
ORESTIMBACR AT RIVER RD NR CROWS LANDING CA
FSH
08-02-93
A
MERCED R A RIVER ROAD BRIDGE NR NEWMAN CA
FSH
08-04-94
A>
MERCED R A RIVER ROAD BRIDGE NR NEWMAN CA
FSH
08-02-95
A
MERCED R A RIVER ROAD BRIDGE NR NEWMAN CA
FSH
08-02-95
B
MERCED R A RIVER ROAD BRIDGE NR NEWMAN CA
FSH
08-02-95
C
MERCED R A RIVER ROAD BRIDGE NR NEWMAN CA
FSH
08-04-94
A
MERCED R A MCCONNELL STATE PARK NR LIVINGSTON CA
FSH
08-09-94
A
MERCED R A HAGAMAN CITY PARK NR IRWIN CA
FSH
08-10-94
A
MERCED R BL SNELLING DIV DAM NR SNELLING CA
FSH
08-16-94
A
MERCED R AB BM1186 NR BRICEBURG CA
FSH
>08-18-94>
>A
MERCED R A POHONO BRIDGE NR YOSEMITE CA
FSH
09-06-95
A
MERCED R A POHONO BRIDGE NR YOSEMITE CA
FSH
09-16-93
A
MERCED R A HAPPY ISLES BRIDGE NR YOSEMITE CA
FSH
08-17-94
A
MERCED R A HAPPY ISLES BRIDGE NR YOSEMITE CA
FSH
09-08-95
A
MERCED R A HAPPY ISLES BRIDGE NR YOSEMITE CA
FSH
08-17-94
A
TENAYA C NR GROUP CAMP NR YOSEMITE VILLAGE CA
FSH
08-17-94
A
TENAYA C BL MIRROR LAKE NR YOSEMITE VILLAGE CA
FSH
08-16-94
A
SF MERCED R NR MOUTH NR EL PORTAL CA
FSH
08-19-94
A
MERCED R AB HWY 140 BRIDGE NR EL PORTAL CA
FSH
08-19-94
A
MERCED R BL FORESTA RD BRIDGE NR EL PORTAL CA
FSH
08-18-94
A
SF MERCED R ABOVE MILE 25 NR WAWONA CA
FSH
09-10-93
A
MUD SLOUGH NR GUSTINE CA
FSH
09-10-93
A
SALT SLOUGH A HWY 165 NR STEVINSON CA
FSH
09-14-93
A
KERN R A KERNVILLE CA
FSH
09-15-93
A
KINGS R BL NF NR TRIMMER CA

References:
Cuffney, T.F., Gurtz, M.E., and Meador, M.R., 1993, Methods for collecting benthic invertebrate samples as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Reports 93-406, 66 p.

Meador, M.R., Cuffney, T.F, and Gurtz, M.E., 1993, Methods for sampling fish communities as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-104, 40 p.

Meador, M.R., Hupp, C.R., Cuffney, T.F., Gurtz, M.E., 1993, Methods for characterizing stream habitat as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-408, 48 p.

Porter, S.D., Cuffney, T.F., Gurtz, M.E., and Meader, M.R., 1993, Methods for collecting algal samples as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program, U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-409, 39 p.



Low-Intensity Phase Sampling

Biological data collection include annual single-reach assessments of fish, invertebrate, and algal communities, and Level I habitat characterization.


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