Ranking the greatest threats to Puget Sound: A summary of the 2014 Puget Sound Pressures Assessment

This paper summarizes a 2014 report ranking the greatest human-caused threats to the Puget Sound ecosystem. 

Stressors with Very High or High Potential Impact in Puget Sound
Stressors with Very High or High Potential Impact in Puget Sound


In 2007 Governor Gregoire challenged residents of the region to make Puget Sound “fishable, diggable, and swimmable” again, and charged recovery practitioners to define a “science-based, unified, and prioritized” recovery plan for the ecosystem. After 150 years of environmental decline on many fronts, planning the recovery of such a large and complex region could not be completed in a single step. There was no ready-made list of the most damaging effects, no obvious way to prioritize recovery targets, and no wholly objective way to order the actions needed to achieve them. The best, indeed only way to make and rank such lists is to assemble, as systematically as possible, the informed opinions of experts. This ‘expert elicitation’ approach has been used in different ways to, for example, list and rate the human actions that are injurious to the Puget Sound ecosystem, identify suitable recovery targets and prioritize the actions needed to achieve them, and design the research needed to fill gaps in understanding about ecosystem processes—gaps that raise uncertainty and hinder progress. Such lists are not fixed for the rest of time. They must be amended as knowledge is gained, methods improve, progress is made, and priorities change. The latest addition to this set arises from a second assessment of the pressures wrought by humans on the Puget Sound ecosystem. The ensuing report is entitled The 2014 Puget Sound Pressures Assessment. This article summarizes the goals, methods, and results of the assessment, as well as some implications for Puget Sound recovery.


Georgiadis, N. (2015). Ranking injurious effects of humans on Puget Sound: A non-­technical summary of the 2014 Puget Sound Pressures Assessment. Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. http://www.eopugetsound.org/.

About the Author: 
Nicholas Georgiadis is a Research Scientist at the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute.