Central Coast lagoon systems are the critical rearing habitat for threatened salmonid species. Human development in our watersheds has resulted in loss of habitat area and significant impacts to the physical, chemical and biological function of many coastal estuaries. Our team has designed and continues to implement an annual physical and chemical monitoring program within two Santa Cruz County Lagoons. The data collection techniques have been consistent for over a decade, providing an invaluable long-term dataset to improve our understanding of sandbar function, water quality dynamics and the associated habitat quality for resident salmonids. The dataset has been evaluated to investigate the effects of drought conditions and changes in flow regimes on lagoon water quality. Advanced statistical analyses have been used to document the salinity, temperature and dissolved oxygen transitional patterns following summer sandbar closures and episodic breaches. The gained long-term functional understanding continues to direct the identification of potential restoration and management recommendations to preserve and restore ecological function in coastal California lagoons.
2NDNATURE is providing technical assistance to the City of Santa Cruz through the development of the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). For over a decade, we have led lagoon function and water quality monitoring in both San Lorenzo River and Laguna Creek Lagoon systems. The function and quality of the lagoons during the dry season are of critical importance for rearing threatened resident salmonid species, Coho and Steelhead. 2NDNATURE continues to collaborate with the City of Santa Cruz Water Department and biologists to provide a data driven evaluation of the role of instream flow conditions on dry season lagoon function and water quality. The results from 2NDNATURE’s analyses will assist the City and regulatory agencies in their decisions on how to balance water supply availability and aquatic ecosystem needs.
2N designed and implemented a multi-disciplinary data collection effort that documented the biological response to an array of physical and chemical habitat conditions in Santa Cruz County coastal lagoons. Data collection included watershed characteristics, hydrologic conditions, lagoon morphologic components, and detailed seasonal water quality and nutrient cycling evaluations. Biological data included extensive primary producer, zooplankton, benthic invertebrate, and fish community evaluations during the critical dry season over two water years (2004 and 2005). The inter-disciplinary evaluations were conducted on five Santa Cruz County lagoons that were determined to represent a range of habitat conditions based on the degree of human impacts and alterations. The end products include an evaluation of our current understanding of Central Coast lagoon condition, the identification of site-specific physical and chemical stressors that appear to influence ecological assemblages at the base of the food chain, and the selection of primary biological indicators to focus future lagoon monitoring. The knowledge gained was used to recommend site-specific enhancement strategies that could be implemented to reduce the influence of current impacts (i.e., nutrient enrichment, depleted vegetation, modified morphologies, etc.) on specific lagoon systems while working within the inherent constraints such as flood control, water supply, and existing watershed land use practices.