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Perspectives on Bay–Delta Science and Policy

Richard Norgaard, Michael Healey, Michael Dettinger | December 1, 2016
Summary

The State of Bay–Delta Science 2008 highlighted seven emerging perspectives on science and management of the Delta. These perspectives had important effects on policy and legislation concerning management of the Delta ecosystem and water exports. From the collection of papers that make up the State of Bay–Delta Science 2016, the authors derive another seven perspectives that augment those published in 2008. The new perspectives address nutrient and contaminant concentrations in Delta waters, the failure of the Delta food web to support native species, the role of multiple stressors in driving species toward extinction, and the emerging importance of extreme events in driving change in the ecosystem and the water supply.

Despite these new tools and scientific insights, species conservation objectives for the Delta are not being met. The authors believe that this lack of progress stems in part from the fact that science and policy do not incorporate sufficiently long-term perspectives. Looking forward half a century was central to the Delta Visioning process, but science and policy have not embraced this conceptual breadth. The authors are also concerned that protection and enhancement of the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place, as required by the Delta Reform Act, has received no critical study and analysis. Adopting wider and longer science and policy perspectives immediately encourages recognition of the need for evaluation, analysis, and public discourse on novel conservation approaches. These longer and wider perspectives also encourage more attention to the opportunities provided by heavily invaded ecosystems. It is past time to turn scientific and policy attention to these issues.

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The State of Bay–Delta Science 2008 highlighted seven emerging perspectives on science and management of the Delta. These perspectives had important effects on policy and legislation concerning management of the Delta ecosystem and water exports. From the collection of papers that make up the State of Bay–Delta Science 2016, the authors derive another seven perspectives that augment those published in 2008. The new perspectives address nutrient and contaminant concentrations in Delta waters, the failure of the Delta food web to support native species, the role of multiple stressors in driving species toward extinction, and the emerging importance of extreme events in driving change in the ecosystem and the water supply.

Despite these new tools and scientific insights, species conservation objectives for the Delta are not being met. The authors believe that this lack of progress stems in part from the fact that science and policy do not incorporate sufficiently long-term perspectives. Looking forward half a century was central to the Delta Visioning process, but science and policy have not embraced this conceptual breadth. The authors are also concerned that protection and enhancement of the unique cultural, recreational, natural resource, and agricultural values of the Delta as an evolving place, as required by the Delta Reform Act, has received no critical study and analysis. Adopting wider and longer science and policy perspectives immediately encourages recognition of the need for evaluation, analysis, and public discourse on novel conservation approaches. These longer and wider perspectives also encourage more attention to the opportunities provided by heavily invaded ecosystems. It is past time to turn scientific and policy attention to these issues.

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Keywords:

Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, science management