Northwest Fisheries Science Center

The effects of changes in land-based activities on marine and estuarine ecosystems

In many coastal zones, urban development, shoreline alteration, agriculture, among other human activities are the major pressures on estuarine and marine species. We are investigating when and how land-based human activities influence ecosystem function in aquatic environments in two ways:

  1. Field studies in Puget Sound that directly measure ecosystem structure and function in freshwater, estuarine and marine habitats within land-use matrices that vary in impervious surface, roads, residential development, agricultural activities, etc. The ultimate objective of this work is to inform the management of endangered or threatened species such as Chinook salmon, Southern Resident killer whales, canary rockfish, yelloweye rockfish, and bocaccio rockfish. In addition, this work directly informs management strategies that aim to improve the state of the Puget Sound ecosystem.
  2. Large-scale syntheses of data and analyses using simulation models allow our staff to explore the connection between land-use change and marine ecosystem structure and function at regional to global spatial scales. This work takes advantage of existing ecosystem models (such as Ecopath with Ecosim or Atlantis) as well as global data sets to ask questions about the relationship between land use and ecosystem function. Ultimately, this work will provide a predictive framework that will allow an assessment of the vulnerability of regional marine ecosystems to land-based pressures.

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