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Map image of Puget Sound and surroundings. Courtesy of USGS.

Puget Sound's physical environment

The Puget Sound ecosystem is shaped by its physical environment. This article provides a summary of some of Puget Sound's geologic history as well as dynamic factors such as the flow of its rivers and currents.

RECENT ARTICLES

Sea lion sunbathing between meals in Seattle's Eliott Bay. Photo: Johnny Mumbles (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/mumbles/3283168713
1/25/2017

Study says predators may play major role in chinook salmon declines

A new study shows that increased populations of seals and sea lions are eating far more of Puget Sound’s threatened chinook than previously known, potentially hampering recovery efforts for both salmon and endangered killer whales. 

Benthic invertebrates range in size from those easily seen with the naked eye to those that cannot be spotted without the use of a microscope. Photo: Christopher Dunagan
1/17/2017

Healthy stream, healthy bugs

Many groups have been formed around the goal of saving salmon, but few people talk about a concerted effort to save microscopic creatures. Whether or not a pro-bug movement catches on, future strategies to save salmon are likely to incorporate ideas for restoring streambound creatures known as benthic invertebrates.

An eelgrass bed near Bainbridge Island, Washington. David Ayers/USGS
1/6/2017

Eelgrass in Puget Sound is stable overall, but some local beaches suffering

Eelgrass, a marine plant crucial to the success of migrating juvenile salmon and spawning Pacific herring, is stable and flourishing in Puget Sound, despite a doubling of the region’s human population and significant shoreline development over the past several decades. [Story reprinted from UW Today.]

Heartbeat line overlays Seattle Skyline from Alki Beach. Graphic: Puget Sound Institute w/ copyrighted images
12/7/2016

Implementation Strategies will target Puget Sound ‘Vital Signs’

New EPA-funded Implementation Strategies are designed to target Puget Sound recovery in the most direct and coordinated way ever conducted by state and federal agencies. We report on how these strategies will affect Puget Sound’s Vital Signs for years to come, and why you should care (a lot).

report cover: Synthesis of 2011-2014 results and key recommendations for future recovery efforts: Final analysis report
12/6/2016

Puget Sound marine and nearshore grant program results, final analysis report

A September 2016 report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute provides an overview of key products, results, and recommendations presented in three previous reports reviewing 50 projects from the first four years of the Puget Sound Marine and Nearshore Grant Program.

Former feeder bluff with sediment impounded by armoring. Photo by Hugh Shipman.
12/5/2016

Shoreline Armoring in an inland sea: Science-based recommendations for policy implementation

A 2016 article in the journal Conservation Letters makes policy recommendations to address shoreline armoring in the Salish Sea.

Steps in the Adaptive Management cycle. Figure 1 from  the article.
12/5/2016

Adaptive management: What, why, and how?

A "learn and adjust" strategy known as adaptive management plays a central role in state and federal Puget Sound recovery efforts. It is an approach that is gaining traction for ecosystem management worldwide. A December 2016 article from the Puget Sound Institute provides an overview of the concept and how it is being applied locally. 

report cover: Analysis of strategic capital investments for habitat restoration and protection
11/16/2016

A review of Puget Sound marine and nearshore grant program results, Part 3

A September 2016 report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute summarizes and reviews 27 EPA-funded projects focusing on Puget Sound's marine and nearshore environments. The projects were conducted between 2011-2015 with support from the EPA's National Estuary Program.  The report is an analysis of findings on shoreline restoration and derelict net and fishing gear removal. 

The 2016 Action Agenda for Puget Sound cover page
11/12/2016

The 2016 Action Agenda for Puget Sound

The Puget Sound Actiona Agenda is a shared plan for Puget Sound recovery resulting from a collaboration by state and federal agencies, tribal governments, local governments, business and environmental groups, and others. 

Fluoxetine hydrochloride. Photo: Meg (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/disowned/1125134972
11/9/2016

Concerns rise over rogue chemicals in the environment

Drugs like Prozac and cocaine have been showing up in the region’s salmon. But these are just some of the potentially thousands of different man-made chemicals that escape into the Salish Sea every day, from pharmaceuticals to industrial compounds. Now the race is on to identify which ones pose the greatest dangers.

Room fire simulation shows burned furniture. Photo: Kecko (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/kecko/3648477592/
11/9/2016

Flame retardants

Efforts to reduce fire hazards over a half century ago have left an unintended trail of persistent environmental contaminants from flame retardant chemicals known as PBDEs. Bans and substitutes are still evolving.

Industrial plant. Photo: Gray World (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/greyworld/6159264209
11/8/2016

New law will increase testing of chemicals

New federal legislation, approved overwhelmingly by the U.S. Congress in December 2015 and signed into law by President Obama in June 2016, is designed to make sure that people and the environment are not harmed by new and old chemicals on the market.

Screenshot of Puget Sound Recovery Atlas view by Legislative District
11/1/2016

Puget Sound Recovery Atlas

The Puget Sound Recovery Atlas is a map-based, online tool that allows users to learn more about an important subset of Puget Sound restoration and protection activities.

Sunflower sea stars have all but disappeared from the Salish Sea due to sea star wasting disease. Photo courtesy of PLOS ONE
10/31/2016

Devastating transboundary impacts of sea star wasting disease on subtidal asteroids

A study in the journal PLOS ONE uses volunteer diver surveys to assess the impacts of sea star wasting disease in the Salish Sea. Data shows that sunflower sea stars were especially hard hit and have all but disappeared from the region. 

Before and after composite view at the site of a 2013 bulkhead-removal project on the shore of Penrose Point State Park in Pierce County. Composite: Kris Symer, PSI; original photos: Kristin Williamson, South Puget Sound Salmon Enhancement Group
10/17/2016

Hitting a wall: Can we fix Puget Sound’s beaches?

New numbers show progress in the state’s efforts to remove shoreline armoring, but they don’t tell the whole story.

Bay Mussels (Mytilus trossulus) on Edmonds Ferry Dock. Photo [cropped]: brewbooks (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/8840874065
10/10/2016

Salish Sea snapshots: Mussel memory

Scientists are testing ways to use transplanted shellfish such as mussels to monitor toxic contaminants in Puget Sound. 

Toxic algal blooms are sometimes associated with invasive plankton. Photo: Eutrophication&Hypoxia (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/48722974@N07/5120831456
10/4/2016

Salish Sea snapshots: Invasive species and human health

Invasive species are considered a top threat to the balance of ecosystems worldwide. New discoveries of non-native green crabs in Puget Sound have highlighted that concern here at home, but invasive species can impact more than just the food web. Some introduced species can produce toxins that accumulate in shellfish or by directly infecting the human body.

Puget Sound Marine Waters 2015 report cover
9/27/2016

Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview 2015

The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program released its fifth annual Marine Waters Overview this week. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2015 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds, fish and marine mammals.

Carcinus maenas. Photo: Brent Wilson (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/59048895@N06/5409329320/
9/23/2016

Second invasive green crab found in Puget Sound

Another European green crab has been spotted in Puget Sound prompting concern that the species may gain a foothold in the region. 

Rhinoceros Auklet carrying sand lance. Photo by Peter Hodum.
9/20/2016

Salish Sea snapshots: Plastics in fish may also affect seabirds

Sand lance in parts of British Columbia are ingesting small pieces of plastic that may be passed through the food web.

Harbor Porpoise (Phocoena phocoena). Bellingham Bay, WA. Photo: Andrew Reding (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/seaotter/9509722373/
9/13/2016

The return of the pig

After an almost complete collapse in the 1970s, harbor porpoise populations in Puget Sound have rebounded. Scientists are celebrating the recovery of the species sometimes known as the "puffing pig." 

2013 Swinomish Tribe clam bake. Photo: Copyright Northwest Treaty Tribes https://www.flickr.com/photos/nwifc/9517621153
8/31/2016

Clam hunger

Social scientists around the Salish Sea are predicting the effects of environmental change through the lens of culturally important foods.

8/30/2016

A comparative study of human well-being indicators across three Puget Sound regions

A 2016 paper in the journal Society and Natural Resources looks at the creation of human well-being indicators across three regions in the Puget Sound watershed. The author suggests that overarching domains for these indictors might be applied more broadly in other environmental contexts. 

Pacific sand lance at rest on sand. Photo: Collin Smith, USGS. https://www.flickr.com/photos/usgeologicalsurvey/13378704834
8/18/2016

The secret lives of forage fish: Where do they go when we aren’t looking?

Some of the most important fish in the Salish Sea food web are also the most mysterious. Researchers have only begun to understand how many there are, where they go, and how we can preserve their populations for the future. A University of Washington researcher describes how scientists are looking into the problem.

A state inspector boards a container ship at the Port of Seattle to check on ballast water and determine whether procedures were followed to reduce the risk of invasive species being released into Puget Sound.  Photo: WDFW
8/2/2016

Invasive stowaways threaten Puget Sound ecosystem

Gaps in regulations could allow invasive species to hitch a ride on ships and boats. We report on some of the potential impacts, and how state and federal agencies are trying to solve the problem. 

Carcinus maenas. Photo: Brent Wilson (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/59048895@N06/5409329320/
8/2/2016

Green crabs could impair Puget Sound shellfish operations

Concerns over the potential arrival of the European green crab have inspired a small army of volunteers. A search is underway for early signs of an invasion.

The orange-striped Asian anemone (Diadumene lineata) was commonly observed in Shelton during the 1998 Puget Sound Expedition. Photo: James Koh (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jameskoh/3835201631/
8/2/2016

Building a baseline of invasive species in Puget Sound

Almost twenty years ago, volunteer biologists began an intensive survey for invasive species in the marine waters of Puget Sound. In a little over a week of hunting, they found 39 such species, including 11 never before seen in the region.

A clump of cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) Photo: USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database
8/2/2016

Invasive marine species: Washington state priorities

The Washington Invasive Species Council evaluated more than 700 invasive species in and around Washington, considering their threats to the state’s environment, economy, and human health. They included terrestrial plants and animals, aquatic plants and animals (both freshwater and saltwater), insects and diseases. In the end, the council listed 50 “priority species” for action, including five marine animals and two marine plants, along with one virus that infects fish. 

report cover: Analysis of invasive species, toxics, oil spill, and integrated risk assessment findings
8/1/2016

A review of Puget Sound marine and nearshore grant program results, Part 2

A July 2016 report from the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute summarizes and reviews 10 EPA-funded projects focusing on Puget Sound's marine and nearshore environments. The projects were conducted between 2011-2015 with support from the EPA's National Estuary Program.  The report is an analysis of findings on invasive species, toxics, oil spill, and integrated risk assessment.

Due to the 'Red Tide' misnomer, blooms of red-colored algae, like this Noctiluca sp. (a dinoflagellate) seen here in Eastsound, Washington (July 2016), can cause undue public concern about harmful algal blooms. Photo: Jordan Cole
7/26/2016

Harmful algal blooms in the Salish Sea

Formerly known as “Red Tide”, harmful algal blooms are a health concern for both wildlife and humans. The following is a brief review of some of these algae and their effects.

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