Integrative Indicators of Ecosystem Condition and Stress across Multiple Trophic Levels in the San Francisco Estuary

EPA Grant Number: R827644
Title: Integrative Indicators of Ecosystem Condition and Stress across Multiple Trophic Levels in the San Francisco Estuary
Investigators: Dugdale, Richard C. , Kimmerer, Wim , Arp, Alissa J. , Thompson, Janet K. , Bollens, Stephen Morgan , Wilkerson, Frances P. , Julian, David William
Institution: San Francisco State University
Current Institution: San Francisco State University , U.S. Geological Survey - Sacramento , University of Florida
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: October 1, 1999 through September 30, 2002 (Extended to September 30, 2003)
Project Amount: $881,062
RFA: Ecological Indicators (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Aquatic Ecosystems , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


The objectives of the proposed research are: 1) to devise indicators of ecosystem condition, 2) to investigate their relationships to various stressors, including, salinity' turbidity, nutrients, and introduced species, and 3) to assess the utility of these indicators. Our indicators have been chosen to represent key population- and individual-level processes across a broad range of trophic levels. All are relatively simple to measure, significant to population ecology, expected to be sensitive to stress levels, and likely to be useful in other aquatic habitats.


The research focuses on the development and testing of several indicators of ecosystem condition or stress spanning multiple trophic levels?phvtoplarlLton, zooplankton, benthos, and t~sh. The field activities will consist of monthly, shipboard observations of a full suite of biological oceanographic and related environmental variables at three sites spanning nearly freshwater to nearly marine water. Laboratory studies, including the use of various molecular biological techniques, will be undertaken to calibrate and help interpret the field measurements. Finally, the utility of these indicators will be assessed by relating them to extensive data sets of environmental variables available from various ongoing state and federal monitoring programs.

Expected Results:

In addition to generating new monitoring data covering a broad range of environmental variables, we expect to produce monthly indicators of ecosystem condition or status for several different organisms or trophic levels at several different sites within the San Francisco Estuary. These include nutrient status and performance of primary producers, growth rate, condition and glycogen indices of the benthos, reproductive rates of copepods, nutritional condition in larval herring, and heat shock protein responses by these organisms. By combining these indicators across several trophic levels, we will begin to assess the condition or status of the whole food web of the San Francisco Estuary, and the potential modulating role of both natural and anthropogenic stressors on the system. All the indicators proposed have been selected for their simplicity and transportability to other aquatic habitats.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 53 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Estuary; EMAP: marine; ecology; biology; surveys; aquatic; habitat; integrated assessment; California, EPA Region 9,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Nutrients, Ecology, Environmental Chemistry, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Chemistry, State, Microbiology, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, EPA Region, aquatic ecosystem, environmental monitoring, nutrient supply, EMAP, marine ecosystem, Region 9, stressors, trophic transfer, bioavailability, phytoplankton dynamics, ecosystem indicators, salinity, bioindicators, aquatic ecosystems, benthos-associated organisms, San Franciso Estuary, ecological indicators, California (CA), benthic nutrients, population

Relevant Websites:

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • 2002 Progress Report
  • Final Report