Increasing clarity of Delta waters, the emergence of harmful algal blooms, the growth of aquatic water weeds, and the altered food web of the Delta have recently brought nutrient dynamics to the forefront. This paper focuses on the sources of nutrients, the transformation and uptake of nutrients, and the links of nutrients to primary producers.
The largest loads of nutrients to the Delta come from the Sacramento River with the San Joaquin River seasonally important, especially in the summer. Light regime, grazing pressure, and nutrient availability influence rates of primary production at different times and locations within the Delta. Modern sensor technology and networks are now deployed that make high frequency measurements of nitrate, ammonium, and phosphate. Data from such instruments allow a much more detailed assessment of the spatial and temporal dynamics of nutrients.
Four fruitful directions for future research include utilizing continuous sensor data to estimate rates of primary production and ecosystem respiration, linking models of the Delta with the transport and fate of dissolved nutrients, studying nutrient dynamics in various habitat types, and exploring the use of stable isotopes to trace the movement and fate of effluent-derived nutrients.