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Field of camas lilies

Indigenous Plants Forum raises awareness of native botanical treasures

A Lopez Island-based nonprofit says the protection of critical habitat for native plants can also preserve a wealth of traditional knowledge. The group is working with private landowners to raise awareness of culturally important plants hidden in the bogs and underbrush of Puget Sound's natural areas.

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RECENT ARTICLES

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7/9/2021

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - June 17, 2021

Despite a La Niña, precipitation and rain have been lower since March, leaving only snow-fed rivers running high. Due to lower rainfall and warm summer temperatures the salinity of Puget Sound is now generally higher. Strong blooms and large patches of organic material and macro-algae are building up in many places and wash onto beaches. During very hot summer days, tidal mudflats and beaches can get really warm. Beach wrack can harbor increased bacteria numbers now. See SCUBA cleaning up at Redondo beach.

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7/9/2021

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - April 1, 2021

After a wet winter/spring transition it has been noticeably drier, warmer and sunnier. River flows are near normal levels and in Puget Sound and coastal bays salinity is increasing above normal. The spring bloom is developing but not very pronounced, yet, Noctiluca is already visible in southern Hood Canal. Suspended sediment near rivers and creeks, failing bluffs, and shellfish activities are frequent. Capturing herring spawning from the plane is informative; pilots share their observations.

Golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa). Photo: Minette Layne (CC BY-NC 2.0)
6/23/2021

Golden-crowned kinglets in Puget Sound have seen a steep decline since 1968

The number of golden-crowned kinglets in the Puget Sound watershed has declined by more than 91% over a recent 50-year period, according to data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey. The data was reported by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, which tracks the information for the Puget Sound Partnership’s terrestrial bird indicator. The indicator was established to monitor the health of Puget Sound’s species and food webs.

Harbor seal in the water
6/14/2021

Estimating the stock size of harbor seals in the inland waters of Washington State

A 2021 paper in the journal PLoS ONE describes a non-traditional approach to estimating the size of three harbor seal management stocks in the inland waters of Washington using aerial line-transect surveys and tagging data.

Tail of a gray whale showing above water
6/4/2021

"Sounders" arrive as gray whales decline along the coast

Each spring, about a dozen gray whales make a brief detour into the Salish Sea before heading north to their feeding grounds in the Arctic. Biologists dubbed these whales "Sounders" after first noting their presence in the 1990s, and the whales have become rare but widely anticipated visitors to local waters. The whales were spotted again this year, but biologists have documented a 24 percent decline in gray whale populations along the West Coast.

Newborn harbor seal napping on a bed of kelp
6/4/2021

Congenital diseases in harbor seals from the Salish Sea

An article published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases in 2021 describes trends in birth defects among harbor seals in the Salish Sea from 2003 to 2019. The results suggest a level of congenital disease in this harbor seal population that is important for continued monitoring.

Several harbor seals lying on a rock
6/4/2021

Trends in propeller strike-induced mortality in harbor seals

An article published in the Journal of Wildlife Diseases in 2021 describes research documenting injuries among harbor seals in the Salish Sea caused by boat propeller strikes. The number of strikes increased significantly between 2002 and 2019, as did vessel traffic.

Maps generated from the Salish Sea Model showing surface layer transport in the Northwest Straits (left) and sea surface salinity (right). Images: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
5/18/2021

The Salish Sea Model

The Salish Sea Model is a computer model used to predict spatial and temporal patterns related to water circulation in the Salish Sea. It was developed at the United States Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency. It is housed at the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute. 

5/14/2021

Marine Water Quality Implementation Strategy

This article provides an overview and a link to further information about the Marine Water Quality Implementation Strategy. Implementation Strategies (Strategies) are plans for accelerating progress toward the 2020 ecosystem recovery targets for the Puget Sound Vital Signs. The Strategies are developed collaboratively with technical, professional, and policy experts and with local and regional input. They are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

5/14/2021

Implementation Strategy for Puget Sound’s Shellfish Beds Recovery Target

This article provides an overview and a link to further information about the Shellfish Implementation Strategy. Implementation Strategies (Strategies) are plans for accelerating progress toward the 2020 ecosystem recovery targets for the Puget Sound Vital Signs. The Strategies are developed collaboratively with technical, professional, and policy experts and with local and regional input. They are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

5/13/2021

Puget Sound Eelgrass (Zostera marina) Recovery Strategy

A 2014 report from the Washington State Department of Natural Resources outlines a recovery strategy for native eelgrass in Puget Sound. The strategy is designed to address a target set forth by the Puget Sound Partnership to increase eelgrass by 20 percent in Puget Sound by 2020. 

5/13/2021

Chinook Salmon Implementation Strategy

This article provides an overview and a link to further information about the Chinook Salmon Implementation Strategy. Implementation Strategies (Strategies) are plans for accelerating progress toward the 2020 ecosystem recovery targets for the Puget Sound Vital Signs. The Strategies are developed collaboratively with technical, professional, and policy experts and with local and regional input. They are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

5/13/2021

Land Development and Cover Implementation Strategy

This article provides an overview and a link to further information about the Land Development and Cover Implementation Strategy. Implementation Strategies (Strategies) are plans for accelerating progress toward the 2020 ecosystem recovery targets for the Puget Sound Vital Signs. The Strategies are developed collaboratively with technical, professional, and policy experts and with local and regional input. They are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

5/11/2021

Floodplains and Estuaries Implementation Strategy

This article provides an overview and a link to further information about the Floodplains and Estuaries Implementation Strategy. Implementation Strategies (Strategies) are plans for accelerating progress toward the 2020 ecosystem recovery targets for the Puget Sound Vital Signs. The Strategies are developed collaboratively with technical, professional, and policy experts and with local and regional input. They are funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Researchers in a boat near killer whales
5/10/2021

Southern residents’ winter diet comes into focus

A 2021 paper in the journal PLoS ONE provides a clearer picture of what endangered southern resident orcas eat throughout the year. Chinook salmon make up the bulk of the whales' diet, but the paper suggests that other salmon species and non-salmonid fishes can also play important roles depending on the season.

Washington state capital dome against blue sky
4/26/2021

State agencies will focus on improving environmental justice under new law

The recently approved HEAL Act requires the state of Washington to address issues of environmental justice within its agencies. The Act is expected to be signed by the governor and focuses on inequities in environmental health conditions for disenfranchised populations.

Homewaters book cover
4/20/2021

'Homewaters' blends natural and cultural history of Puget Sound

A new book explores our complicated connection to the ecosystem we call home. We interview author David B. Williams about Homewaters: A Human and Natural History of Puget Sound, published this month by the University of Washington Press.

Historic map of Seattle showing areas in different colors.
4/12/2021

Why is so much pollution found in disadvantaged communities?

Researchers are looking at the forces of discrimination that worsen the environmental health risks for some communities.

Brightly painted canoes on river shore with construction cranes in background.
4/12/2021

Diverse populations benefit from targeted efforts to improve environmental justice

Years of struggle have led to reduced pollution and a stronger sense of community in the Duwamish Valley. As cleanup efforts there continue, environmental justice has come front and center for the area's diverse populations.

A rusty radiator and other debris in sediment of the Duwamish River at low tide.
4/12/2021

Revised toxic-cleanup rules will increase focus on environmental justice

An update to state rules regarding the cleanup of toxic pollution is expected to bring more attention to factors like race, ethnicity and income within populations that live near contaminated sites.

Timber pike seawall below a house along the shoreline.
3/30/2021

Is shoreline armoring becoming a relic of the past?

Close to 30% of Puget Sound's shoreline is armored with seawalls and other structures meant to protect beaches against rising tides and erosion. But science increasingly shows that these structures are ineffective and cause significant harm to salmon and other creatures. State and federal agencies have been encouraging private property owners to remove armoring in a race to improve habitat, but why did so much of it start appearing in the first place?

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3/22/2021

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - March 11, 2021

We are in a weakening La Niña, coastal downwelling has lessened and we are getting out of a cold and wet stretch, hurray. In March, rivers have almost returned to normal and carry clear water. It’s a good time to go diving if you don’t mind cold water. The productive season has only started in some places and patches of jellyfish are visible. Have a look at this edition and marvel about the secrets of the dead, or mysterious sediment clouds and the oil sheen spotted near Lummi Bay.

Waves crashing in front of a house. Photo: James Kinney
3/22/2021

Residential shoreline loan program feasibility study: Developing a new Shore Friendly incentive to help Puget Sound homeowners finance beach restoration and sea level rise adaptation

The 2018 Shoreline Armoring Implementation Strategy identified development of new financial incentives as a near-term priority. This study, funded by the Habitat Strategic Initiative, assesses the feasibility of developing a Shore Friendly residential shoreline loan program.

An image from the LiveOcean model showing Salish Sea circulation patterns.
3/10/2021

Estuarine circulation, mixing, and residence times in the Salish Sea

A 2021 article in the journal JGR Oceans describes circulation and mixing in the Salish Sea. The findings are based on simulations produced by the LiveOcean computer model.

A group of southern resident killer whales swimming together near San Juan Island. Photo: Katy Foster/NOAA Fisheries, under permit 18786
2/26/2021

Killer whale CSI

Collisions with boats and other interactions with humans are "significant" causes of death for killer whales in the northeastern Pacific, a recent study says. The findings come from one of the most comprehensive looks at killer whale pathology to date, but scientists say determining how a killer whale may have died is often notoriously difficult.

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2/25/2021

Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity (B-IBI) Implementation Strategy

The Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity (B-IBI) Implementation Strategy is designed to improve freshwater quality by analyzing the health and diversity of invertebrate populations in Puget Sound area streams.

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2/17/2021

Eyes Over Puget Sound: Surface Conditions Report - February 3, 2021

Rivers are flowing higher than normal since 2020. Winter weather has been warmer and wetter. In marine waters, temperatures have become too cool for Northern Pacific anchovies to tolerate in North Sound. From patches of jellyfish and snow geese, to sediment and early blooms, there is more happening in the winter than you might expect. Puget Sound has many species worth showcasing such as the heart crab – a shy critter that wears its heart on its shell.

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2/12/2021

Priority science to support Puget Sound recovery: A Science work plan for 2020-2024

Priority Science to Support Recovery of the Puget Sound Ecosystem: A Science Work Plan for 2020-2024 (SWP for 2020-2024) describes the information, learning, and interaction needed to support the coordinated efforts to recover, protect, and improve the resilience of the Puget Sound ecosystem.

Puget Sound shoreline at sunset. Photo by Jeff Rice. All rights reserved.
1/25/2021

Sensing liminal landscapes in Puget Sound

Puget Sound's shorelines are "liminal landscapes" that can inspire senses of "escape, transformation, and human creativity," according to a 2021 paper in GeoJournal. That may have regional policy implications as coastal researchers increasingly recognize the need to incorporate community inclusion and 'sense of place' in management decisions. The paper includes findings from a 12-county survey aimed at gauging residents’ sense of place for Puget Sound’s liminal shorelines.

Harbor seal in Puget Sound. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
1/25/2021

Antibiotic resistance of bacteria in two marine mammal species, harbor seals and harbor porpoises, living in an urban marine ecosystem, the Salish Sea, Washington State, USA

Harbor seals and harbor porpoises in the Salish Sea are showing a relatively high presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A 2021 paper in the journal Oceans suggests that these findings may indicate a wider problem among other species in the region.

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