USGS Study Describes Climate Change Impacts for Bay-Delta

California’s Bay-Delta system will see changes in habitat, sea level and freshwater availability over the next century as a result of global climate change, according to a new assessment of climate warming scenarios by the U.S. Geological Survey.

USGS scientists and academic colleagues investigated how the Bay-Delta system will respond to both fast and moderate climate change scenarios. Results showed that the combined effects of increasing water temperature and salinity could reduce habitat quality for native species, such as the endangered Delta smelt and winter-run Chinook salmon, and intensify the challenge of sustaining their populations.

The study also indicated that adaptation strategies will be needed to address potentially longer dry seasons, diminishing snowpack and earlier snowmelt leaving less water for runoff in the summer. Increased intensity and frequency of winter flooding could also occur as a result of earlier snowmelt and a shift from snow to rain. 

“The protection of California's Bay-Delta system will continue to be a top priority for maintaining the state's agricultural economy, water security to tens of millions of users, and essential habitat to a valuable ecosystem,” USGS Director Marcia McNutt said in a statement. “This new USGS research complements ongoing initiatives to conserve the Bay-Delta by providing sound scientific understanding for managing this valuable system such that it continues to provide the services we need in the face of climate uncertainty.”

The report's findings are expected to provide new information for collaborative initiatives such as the Bay Delta Conservation Plan and contribute to the science foundation underlying the Delta Stewardship Council’s Delta Plan. 

Results of this study were recently published in the journal, PLoS ONE. The article, "Projected Evolution of California's San Francisco Bay-Delta-River System in a Century of Climate Change,” is available here