Coastal fog frequency and watershed recharge metrics for coho salmon conservation recovery
Abstract:Endangered Central California Coast coho salmon benefit from summertime occurrences of fog and low cloud cover (FLCC). Watershed hydrology is a critical factor affecting population dynamics of coho and FLCC affects this in three ways. First, streams remain cooler in late summer when shaded by FLCC—high temperatures are lethal to coho. Second, more water reaches the stream when FLCC shades riparian vegetation thereby reducing evapotranspiration. Third, fog drip adds water directly into streams. The increased stream flow can be a critical resource in late summer when coastal watersheds are at their lowest subsurface discharge rate. Associated low stream flows can trap juvenile coho in pools, resulting in high rates of mortality due to higher predation exposure, overheating and, if the pool dries up, lack of habitat.
The 2012 National Marine Fisheries Service Final Recovery Plan identified 75 watersheds that historically supported coho salmon. The recovery team used biological and environmental metrics to identify subwatersheds where recovery action implementation had the highest probability of improving coho salmon population survival. These subwatersheds were classified into three categories: Core (n=89), Phase I (n=93), or Phase II (N=157) (CPP).
Differences among the CPP-rated subwatersheds were explored using FLCC frequency data, derived from a decade of hourly weather satellites, combined with groundwater recharge metrics from the Basin Characterization Model (BCM) to provide additional environmental dimensions. Average summertime (June, July, August, and September) FLCC in the subwatersheds ranged from 2.2 -11.3 hrs/day and cumulative groundwater recharge ranged from 6 mm -894 mm. A two dimensional scatterplot (x = FLCC; y = recharge) of subwatersheds divided into 4 quadrants , (low FLCC – low recharge, low – high, high – low, high – high, ) shows 11 Core, 6 Phase I, and 5 Phase II areas in the high – high quadrant. The majority of Phase I and II areas are in the low – low quadrant whereas the majority of Core areas are in low – high.
Future conditions will impact the capacity of these subwatershed areas to continue to support coho population. FLCC metrics for interannual variation and future forecasts of recharge and air temperatures were used to analyze the difference in capacity (resilience) among areas.