Early Life History of Fishes in the San Francisco Estuary and Watershed

Spatial and Temporal Distribution of Native and Alien Ichthyoplankton in Three Habitat Types of the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta

Lenny F. Grimaldo, Robert E. Miller, Christopher M. Peregrin, and Zachary P. Hymanson

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569599.ch6

Abstract.—We examined the spatial and temporal variability of native and alien ichthyoplankton in three habitat types (marsh edge, shallow open-water, and river channel) in one reference and three restored marshes in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, California, during 1998 and 1999. More than 6,700 fish embryos and 25,000 larvae represented by 10 families were collected in 240 tows during the 2-year study. Overall, the assemblage was dominated by alien fishes, but natives were more abundant during winter and spring, whereas aliens were more abundant during summer. Overall abundance was highest in marsh edge habitats, suggesting that this habitat provides favorable larval rearing habitats for many fishes. The reference marsh was dominated by alien species making it difficult to assess whether it had attributes that promoted use by native fish. Ichthyoplankton abundance varied comparably at restored sites of similar configuration. The restored site, with minimal tidal exchange and greater lower trophic productivity, supported the highest densities of alien fish. We conclude that restoration projects in this region of the estuary must consider the potential impacts of alien fishes on natives and evaluate strategies designed to improve recruitment success of native fishes. Specifically, we suggest that restored wetlands that offer only winter and spring inundation periods may provide maximum benefits to natives while limiting access by many alien fishes regardless of specific habitat-use requirements.