Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Thesis
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 6499
Title: Evaluating the biological condition of Puget Sound
Author: Casey A. Rice
Publication Year: 2007
Thesis Type: Ph. D. Dissertation,
University: University of Washington School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences. Seattle
Date: 2007

Puget Sound is a biologically rich and productive fjord–estuary of high ecological and socioeconomic significance.  During the last two centuries, the Puget Sound region became a major population center, full of industrial, agricultural, and forestry activity, and subjected to intensive environmental manipulation and natural resource harvest.  Today we see severe and expanding human influence throughout the Puget Sound landscape, and multiple, continuing signs of biological decline.  At the same time, monitoring and research to understand, protect, and recover Puget Sound is a fragmented, uneven collection of efforts, surprisingly little of which considers Puget Sound in an ecosystem context or focuses specifically on the biological effects of human activity.  As a result, we have no comprehensive, coherent narrative of how the Puget System ecosystem works, how it has been affected by human activity, and what can and should be done to restore the Sound or even halt or slow its decline.  This dissertation contributes to such a narrative by briefly summarizing our understanding of the Puget Sound ecosystem in the context of human activity; by providing new research that improves that understanding; and by suggesting future directions for monitoring and research.  Chapter 1 reviews the basic ecological character of Puget Sound and the history of natural resource management and environmental assessment.  The next four chapters present results from several distinct research projects:  a site–level assessment of effects of anthropogenic shoreline modification on beach microclimate and egg mortality in an intertidally spawning fish (Chapter 2); seasonal, geographic, and size distributions of juvenile hatchery and wild Chinook salmon in nearshore surface waters (Chapter 3); landscape–scale characterization of pelagic macrofauna assemblage composition in nearshore surface waters (Chapter 4); and the combination and reanalysis of data from historical and ongoing assessment and monitoring programs to explore relationships between marine bird and waterfowl assemblage composition and urbanization in the adjacent terrestrial landscape (Chapter 5).  Finally, Chapter 6 uses the historical context and research results of the first five chapters to outline the primary challenges in developing more effective biological monitoring and assessment programs for Puget Sound.