Overviews

General descriptions of topics of interest (such as ROVs or Major Ports in Puget Sound, fact sheets, tribes of the Salish Sea, etc.).

RELATED ARTICLES

Spiny Dogfish (Squalus acanthias), a species typically found in Puget Sound marine waters. Image courtesy of NOAA.
7/18/2017

The pelagic (open water) food web

The marine habitat of Puget Sound can be divided up into nearshore, benthic (associated with the sea floor), and pelagic (open water) habitats. This article focuses on the pelagic habitat within the Puget Sound. This article was prepared as part of the 2015 Puget Sound Fact Book produced by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute. 

Dead salmon. Photo: Boris Mann (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/boris/3037705761
7/14/2017

The nearshore food web: Detritus

Detritus, or dying or decaying matter, is a central component of the nearshore food web in Puget Sound. This article was prepared as part of the 2015 Puget Sound Fact Book produced by the University of Washington Puget Sound Institute. 

Map image of Puget Sound and surroundings. Courtesy of USGS.
2/6/2017

Puget Sound's physical environment

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

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.

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.

Algal bloom. Photo: Eutrophication&Hypoxia (CC BY 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/48722974@N07/5120831456
2/26/2016

Harmful algal blooms in Puget Sound

An algal bloom is a rapid increase or accumulation in the population of algae in a water system. While most are innocuous, there are a small number of algae species that produce harmful toxins to humans and animals.

Common starfish feeding on mussels. Photo: James Lynott (CC BY-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jlynott/11715880653
2/24/2016

Food web dynamics: competition and invasive species

Competition occurs when individuals of different species struggle to obtain the same resource in an ecosystem (such as food or living space). Adaptations, such as physical mutations and behavior modifications, can help an organism outcompete its competitors. 

Early morning meal. Photo: jdegenhardt (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jdegenhardt/2771107305
2/24/2016

Food web connections beyond the marine areas of Puget Sound

Food webs are natural interconnections of food chains and depict what-eats-what in an ecological community. While Puget Sound represents a specific food web, the organisms that reside within that web often travel outside the region. In this way, one community's food web can be drastically affected by a change in a neighboring ecosystem.

Dead salmon. Photo: Boris Mann (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/boris/3037705761
2/23/2016

Transfer of nutrients in the ecosystem

Decaying organic matter plays an important role in marine ecosystems. 

Puget Sound. Photo: S.N. Johnson-Roehr (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/snjr22/4095840433
2/18/2016

Water and nutrient circulation in Puget Sound

Complex physical processes such as hydrology, nutrient cycling, and sediment transport are linked to water circulation patterns in Puget Sound. 

Waves crashing on the Puget Sound Photo: MikeySkatie (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/mikeyskatie/5473869676
2/17/2016

Climate and ocean processes

This overview discusses the processes that control ocean and climate characteristics. Topics include atmospheric forcing, precipitation patterns, oscillation trends, coastal upwelling, and climate change.

2003 Seattle Marathon - Seward Park Photo: J Brew (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/1282527696
2/17/2016

Cleaning up Lake Washington

Lake Washington was heavily contaminated by untreated sewage until extensive pollution controls by the city of Seattle. 

Water Resource Inventory Areas (WRIA). Map: Kris Symer. Data source: WAECY.
2/15/2016

Geographic boundaries of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea

The boundaries of Puget Sound and the Salish Sea are not always consistently defined by scientists and government agencies. This article clarifies the distinctions between oceanographic and watershed-based definitions of these geographic areas. 

Bear eats salmon. Photo: Robert Voors (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/robert_voors/1303192433
2/15/2016

Food webs

The health of an ecosystem is tied closely to the health of its food webs. This article provides an overview of the concept, origin, and characteristics of a food web and how predator and prey relationships are shaped in the Salish Sea.  

The Puyallup River outside Orting, WA. Photo: Lindley Ashline (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/91625873@N04/22035924720
2/12/2016

Land cover conversion and ecosystem decline

Land cover conversion through human development was listed as a leading cause of ecosystem decline in the 2014 Puget Sound Pressures Assessment, a document supported by the Environmental Protection Agency and prepared by more than 60 of the region's scientists. 

Salmon fishing at Fauntleroy. Photo: Washington State Dept of Transportation (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) www.flickr.com/photos/wsdot/3999467495
2/1/2016

Human dimensions

This content initiates a description of the social dimensions of the Puget Sound system with a short list of facts about population growth trends, how humans interact with and depend on the Puget Sound ecosystem for their wellbeing (in the broadest sense), and the large-scale policies and individual human activities that have the greatest potential impact on the Puget Sound ecosystem. 

Stormwater flowing into catch basin carries contaminants to our waterways. Photo: Ben McLeod (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/benmcleod/420158390
2/1/2016

Stormwater facts

Runoff from rain and melting snow is one of the leading causes of pollution in Puget Sound. Here are selected facts related to stormwater, its prevalence, how it affects the Puget Sound ecosystem, and its environmental and economic impacts.

Sucralose, an artificial sweetener, is a good tracer of wastewater. It is present at low levels throughout the Puget Sound [1].
10/28/2015

Contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) in the waters of the Pacific Northwest

Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) range from pharmaceuticals, personal care products and food additives to compounds used in industrial and commercial applications. These compounds are not typically removed from wastewater and are flushed into waterways throughout the world in significant amounts. This article describes how scientists are measuring the presence of these contaminants along with their potential impacts in Puget Sound, the Columbia River and elsewhere.

Lower Duwamish Waterway dredging on Superfund site. Photo: Gary Dean Austin (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/49648789@N08/17069420399/
10/5/2015

Persistent contaminants in Puget Sound: Overcoming a toxic legacy

The Lower Duwamish Waterway in Puget Sound was designated a Superfund cleanup site in 2001. Its legacy of contamination predates World War II and the waterway continues to pollute Puget Sound through stormwater runoff.

2015 Puget Sound Fact Book report cover
10/2/2015

2015 Puget Sound Fact Book

The 2015 Puget Sound Fact Book brings together statistics and other information about the health and makeup of the Puget Sound ecosystem. Areas of focus include climate change, geography, water quality, habitats, human dimensions and regional species. The fact book was prepared for the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Puget Sound Partnership.

9/23/2015

Tribes of the Puget Sound and Salish Sea regions

The following list includes Native American tribes and First Nations of the Salish Sea region.

Puget Sound portion of a 1798 chart showing "part of the coast of N.W. America : with the tracks of His Majesty's sloop Discovery and armed tender Chatham / commanded by George Vancouver, Esqr. and prepared under his immediate inspection by Lieut. Joseph Baker." Credit: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.
9/18/2015

Puget Sound: a uniquely diverse and productive estuary

Puget Sound is the second largest estuary in the United States. Today, we understand that estuaries—where freshwater and saltwater merge—are among the most productive places for life to exist.

All scenarios project warming for the 21st century. The graph shows average yearly temperatures for the Pacific Northwest relative to the average for 1950-1999 (gray horizontal line). The black line shows the average simulated temperature for 1950–2011, while the grey lines show individual model results for the same time period. Thin colored lines show individual model projections for two emissions scenarios (low: RCP 4.5, and high: RCP 8.5)[ ], and thick colored lines show the average among models projecti
8/12/2015

Future scenarios for climate change in Puget Sound

The University of Washington Climate Impacts Group has been analyzing the potential effects of climate change in Puget Sound. The projections below represent some of their most recent reporting about expected conditions in the region over the next 50 to 100 years. Support for this article was provided by the Puget Sound Partnership.

6/7/2015

Dissolved oxygen and hypoxia in Puget Sound

Hypoxia, defined as dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations less than 2 mg / L, has become widespread throughout estuaries and semi-enclosed seas throughout the world (Diaz 2001). 

Clam gardens, while all being characterized by a level terrace behind a rock wall in the lower intertidal, are diverse in their shapes and sizes. Photo: Amy S. Groesbeck.Clam gardens, while all being characterized by a level terrace behind a rock wall in the lower intertidal, are diverse in their shapes and sizes.
12/5/2014

Ancient clam gardens of the Northwest Coast of North America

Northwest Coast First Peoples made clam garden terraces to expand ideal clam habitat at tidal heights that provided optimal conditions for clam growth and survival, therefore enhancing food production and increasing food security.

Amphipholis squamata (Phylum Echinodermata, Class Ophiuroidea) – This is a brittle star, commonly known as the “brooding snake star”. (Sandra Weakland, Brooke McIntyre photo)
6/17/2014

Benthic Invertebrates of Puget Sound

A list of over 1800 benthic infaunal invertebrates is now available on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. The list was prepared as part of the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Marine Sediment Monitoring Program (MSMP).  This program, initiated in 1989, is one component of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program, a collaborative effort dedicated to monitoring environmental conditions in Puget Sound. 

5/21/2014

Regional investigations into the effects of CECs

Several research groups in the region are investigating biological markers and/or impacts of Contaminant of Emerging Concern (CEC) exposure in different organisms.  An abstract describing each study is included below.  Also included are links or contact details for further information about each project.

5/21/2014

Regional monitoring of CECs in the Salish Sea

Several studies have been performed to determine the occurrence of selected Contaminants of Emerging Concern (CECs) in the environment.

5/15/2014

Marine Protected Areas in Puget Sound

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been present in Puget Sound since the early 1900s, although most were established after the 1960s (Whitesell et al. 2008, Van Cleve 2009). By 1998 there were at least 102 intertidal and subtidal protected areas in Puget Sound, created and managed by at least 12 different agencies or organizations at the local, county, State and Federal level (Murray and Ferguson 1998).

CECs include thousands of commonly used chemical compounds. Photo courtesy of EPA.
4/22/2014

Contaminants of emerging concern in the Salish Sea

Thousands of different compounds are produced and used as part of our daily lives.  Examples include pharmaceuticals (NSAIDs, birth control pills, etc), personal care products (sun screen agents, scents, preservatives, etc), food additives (artificial sweeteners) and compounds used in industrial and commercial applications (flame retardants, antibiotics, etc).  Advances in analytical methods have allowed the detection of many of these compounds in the environment.

Tidal turbines like this one developed by OpenHydro, Ltd. will be installed in Puget Sound in mid 2015 as part of a demonstration project. Sustainable, large-scale development of tidal energy will require studying and learning from these early-stage projects. Image source: OpenHydro, Ltd./DCNS
3/25/2014

Tidal energy in Puget Sound

Scientists have identified the strong underwater currents of Puget Sound's Admiralty Inlet as a potential source of electricity for nearby utilities. The following article describes some of the basic principles and mechanisms of tidal energy.  

Cover page for A Marine and Estuarine Habitat Classification System for Washington State
3/19/2014

Defining and describing Puget Sound shore types

Species and their habitats are a foundation of the ecosystem framework, but there is currently no generally agreed upon habitat classification system for Puget Sound. The closest thing for its marine and nearshore environments may be Dr. Megan Dethier’s 1990 resource A Marine and Estuarine Habitat Classification System for Washington State. Much of the work for that document was done in the general vicinity of Puget Sound, and it has been an influential resource for major habitat mapping efforts in the region, such as Shorezone.
The Puget Sound Model at the UW School of Oceanography
3/19/2014

The Puget Sound Model summary

The Puget Sound Model was designed and built in the early 1950s at the University of Washington School of Oceanography as a research and teaching tool for understanding Puget Sound circulation patterns. The following text was written by Puget Sound Model co-creator John H. Lincoln (1915-2001) and is provided courtesy of the University of Washington School of Oceanography. 

Salish Sea Hydrophone Network locations and 2011
 orca sightings from the Orca Network Whale Sightings Network. Source: Salish Sea Hydrophone Network and Orca Network.
2/11/2014

Salish Sea Hydrophone Network and Orca Network

The Salish Sea Hydrophone Network and Orca Network are two citizen science projects dedicated to furthering our understanding of abundance, distribution, behavior, and habitat use by the endangered population of Southern Resident Killer Whales, also called orcas. The Hydrophone Network lets the public listen for orcas through their computers and phones, while the Orca Network gathers and disseminates sightings of orcas as they move between Puget Sound, the Fraser River, and the Pacific Ocean.

2/7/2014

The IEA framework in the Puget Sound Partnership Biennial Science Work Plan

The 2009-2011 Biennial Science Work Plan specifies the use of the IEA framework by the Puget Sound Partnership "to
 refine 
indicators, 
assess 
risks, 
and
 evaluate
 strategies,
 integrating 
marine, 
nearshore, 
and 
terrestrial 
efforts."

2/7/2014

Salish Sea Natural Area Conservation Plan

The Salish Sea Natural Area Conservation Plan is a project of the Natural Areas Conservation Program (NACP) established in 2007 by the Canadian government, which helps non-profit, non-government organizations protect sensitive areas. The process involves selecting biodiversity targets and determining measures of conservation success.

Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. Photo courtesy of NOAA and the Pacific Tides Party.
2/7/2014

San Juan County Best Available Science Synthesis

A summary of data on ecosystems designated as Critical Areas (formerly Environmentally Sensitive Areas) in San Juan County, including recommendations for management.

2/5/2014

Envision Skagit

Envision Skagit is a partnership between Skagit County and various local and regional organizations. The county is using a land use model as a tool to engage the community about natural resource planning and decisions. 

Chinook salmon. Image courtesy of NOAA.
2/5/2014

Lead Entities for salmon recovery in Puget Sound

Lead Entities are local organizations in Puget Sound that develop salmon recovery strategies and priorities for the region on a watershed-based scale.

Submerged marsh in Fisher Slough. Image courtesy of NOAA.
2/5/2014

Floodplains by Design

Floodplains by Design identifies floodplains in Puget Sound with multiple benefit potential and use information on flood risk to inform ecosystem restoration. 

2/4/2014

The Willamette Valley-Puget Trough-Georgia Basin Ecoregional Assessment

The Willamette Valley-Puget Trough-Georgia Basin Ecoregional Assessment considers 833 conservation targets identified by expert teams, proposing that if those targets are represented in an ecoregion, a majority of species, including those which lack data, will be included.

PSNERP logo
2/4/2014

Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project

The Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project (PSNERP) works to assess the health of Puget Sound nearshore environments and provides strategies for their protection and restoration. 

Puget Sound drainage area. Image courtesy of the Washington Department of Ecology.
2/3/2014

Puget Sound Watershed Characterization Project

This project is a coarse-scale, systematic characterization of different areas within the Puget Sound watershed, aimed at providing a framework for land use discussions.

A bald eagle in Padilla Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. Photo courtesy of NOAA.
2/3/2014

West Coast Governors' Alliance Integrated Ecosystem Assessment

The West Coast Governor's Alliance on Ocean Health, a regional collaboration to protect and manage U.S. West Coast ocean and coastal resources, was launched in September of 2006. This collaboration began an integrated ecosystem assessment (IEA) covering the entire coast, comprised of six regional IEAs (R-IEAs) in Washington, Oregon, and California. The R-IEAs evaluate a range of management objectives and establish “a harmonized set of standards and indicators for ocean health, including metrics for ecological integrity, ecosystem services, and socioeconomic conditions.” 

Graphic of the IEA loop. Credit: NOAA
1/27/2014

Ecological assessments in the Salish Sea

Ecological assessments (sometimes referred to as "conservation assessments") typically identify and evaluate the ecological attributes of an ecosystem. There is no single type of ecological assessment, but the following list includes an informal inventory of related efforts in the Salish Sea. This list does not include Ecological or Environmental Impact Assessments, which are targeted to specific land uses. This is a living document and will be updated as more information becomes available and as needs arise. 

The Seaeye Falcon used by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. Photo courtesy WDFW.
9/4/2013

Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) in Puget Sound

Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are underwater robotic vehicles used for a variety of ocean surveys and operations. Both are used for deep-sea observation, mapping of underwater environments, and surveys of biodiversity and water quality trends. While ROVs are tethered to the user by a cord called the umbilical, which provides power as well as control and video signals, AUVs are programmed for a specific course and then set loose, operating without a tether.

Image courtesy of NOAA.
6/11/2013

Major ports in Puget Sound: fact sheet

The following fact sheet represents economic and environmental activities of major ports in the Puget Sound region. This is a living document and may be updated as new information becomes available. 

A view from the San Juan Islands. Photo: Bureau of Land Management
5/6/2013

San Juan Islands National Monument

The San Juan Islands National Monument was established on March 25, 2013 by the Obama administration.