A simple approach to modeling light attenuation in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta using commonly available data

San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Sciences
By: , and 



The diffuse attenuation coefficient of photosynthetically active radiation (KdPAR) is commonly used to predict light attenuation in aquatic productivity models, but obtaining measurements of PAR to compute KdPAR is difficult. In situ calculations of KdPAR require multiple measurements of PAR through the water column, and these measurements are infeasible for real-time recording. Instead, predictive models using surface-water measurements may be used. Traditional KdPAR models are based on open-ocean habitats and rely on chlorophyll—as a proxy measurement for phytoplankton abundance—as the main predictive parameter. However, elevated suspended sediments and dissolved organic materials may also affect KdPAR values of inland water bodies and estuaries. In this study, we leverage KdPAR calculations derived from in situ light measurements collected along with surface-water-quality parameters across the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in California, USA (the Delta). Sampling occurred between January of 2013 and May of 2014. We also explored regional and seasonal effects, but these did not clearly affect the model. Ultimately, the best-performing model included surface-level turbidity only (R2 = 0.91). The simplicity of the model facilitates use of KdPAR estimates for a variety of purposes throughout the Delta, including euphotic depth calculations, and as inputs to primary-productivity and habitat-suitability models. We demonstrate the model’s usability with two open-sources data sets (one spatially dense, and one temporally dense), and estimate KdPAR, euphotic depth, and primary productivity within the Delta. We provide calculations for each estimation, allowing users to easily adopt these models and apply them to their own data or with open-sourced data, which are abundant.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A simple approach to modeling light attenuation in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta using commonly available data
Series title San Francisco Estuary and Watershed Sciences
DOI 10.15447/sfews.2023v21iss4art5
Volume 21
Issue 4
Year Published 2023
Language English
Publisher University of California
Contributing office(s) California Water Science Center
Description 5, 15 p.
Country United States
State California
Other Geospatial Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta
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