Increased salinity in spawning and nursery grounds in the Savannah River estuary was cited as the primary cause of a 97% decrease in adult striped bass (Morone saxatilis) and a concomitant 96% decrease in striped bass egg production. Restoration efforts focused on environmental remediation and stock enhancement have resulted in restored salinity patterns and increased egg and adult abundances. However, future water needs or harbor development may preclude further recovery by reducing freshwater inflow or increasing salinity intrusion. To assess the effect of potential changes in the salinity regime, we developed models relating discharge, tidal phase, and salinity to striped bass egg and early larval survival and re-cast these in a quantitative Bayesian belief network. The model indicated that a small upstream shift (???1.67 km) in the salinity regime would have the least impact on striped bass early life history survival, whereas shifts >1.67 km would have progressively larger impacts, with a 8.33-km shift potentially reducing our estimated survival probability by >28%. Such an impact could have cumulative and long-term detrimental effects on the recovery of the Savannah River striped bass population. The available salinity data were collected during average and low flows, so our model represents some typical and some extreme conditions during a striped bass spawning season. Our model is a relatively simplistic, "first-order" attempt at evaluating potential effects of changes in the Savannah River estuarine salinity regime and points to areas of concern and potential future research. ?? 2008 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
Additional publication details
Modeling the effects of potential salinity shifts on the recovery of striped bass in the Savannah River estuary, Georgia-South Carolina, United States