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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/esr01057

Use of affinity analysis to guide habitat restoration and enhancement for the imperiled delta smelt

Scott A. Hamilton, Dennis D. Murphy*

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Habitat restoration efforts in the upper San Francisco Estuary in central California move forward, despite a paucity of information on the environmental requirements of many targeted species. The endemic delta smelt Hypomesus transpacificus, protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, is a primary focus of those efforts despite uncertainties regarding many aspects of its relationship with the estuary’s physical and biotic resources. Here we use time-series data from 4 trawl surveys and data on environmental attributes collected from throughout the delta smelt’s distribution to identify ranges of conditions acceptable to delta smelt for each of 5 environmental attributes: water-body type, temperature, turbidity, salinity, and prey availability. Low turbidity and elevated water temperatures render a large portion of the estuary seasonally unsuitable for delta smelt. Within areas in which water quality is suitable, patterns of delta smelt occurrences indicate that habitat is found in subregions where channels of intermediate depth adjoin shallow water. In certain subregions conditions are inadequate for at least one of the environmental attributes for periods up to several months. We suggest a habitat-restoration strategy that can achieve adequate habitat conditions for delta smelt regardless of through-Delta flow levels, carried out at a number of locations, but not necessarily the same locations, during each life stage.