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

Puget Sound Institute social scientist Kelly Biedenweg has published a comparative study of three well-being indicators in the Puget Sound region. The article appears in the August issue of the journal Society & Natural Resources.

Abstract:

Simple frameworks that generalize the best metrics of human well- being related to the natural environment have rarely been empirically tested for their representativeness across diverse regions. This study tested the hypothesis that metrics of human well-being related to environmental change are context specific by identifying priority human well-being indicators in distinct regions. The research team interviewed 61 experts and held 8 stakeholder workshops across 3 regions to identify and prioritize locally relevant indicators. Results from the three regions were compared to determine the degree of geographic and demographic variability in indicator priorities. The team found broadly similar domains and attributes of human well- being across the regions, yet measurable indicators were specific to the contexts. Despite this, the congruence of overarching domains suggests that a high-level framework of human well-being can guide a holistic assessment of the human impacts of environmental change across diverse regions.

Citation:

Biedenweg, Kelly. (2016). A Comparative Study of Human Well-Being Indicators Across Three Puget Sound Regions. Society & Natural Resources. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08941920.2016.1209606.

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

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

Pacific sand lance at rest on sand. Photo: Collin Smith, USGS. 

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. University of Washington researcher Margaret Siple reports on the secret lives of forage fish in the latest issue of Salish Sea Currents. 

Read the article in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

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New in Salish Sea Currents: Invasive stowaways threaten Puget Sound ecosystem

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

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

Invasive species are among the three greatest threats to the environment worldwide, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Species ranging from microscopic viruses to larger creatures like rodents and non-native fish can alter the balance of entire ecosystems. The threat is well-known in Puget Sound and the Salish Sea, which face their own unique challenges.

This week, our magazine Salish Sea Currents looks at some of the ways that invasive species get into local waters. Senior writer Christopher Dunagan reports on two leading pathways that have caught the attention of regulators. Studies now show that many invaders are literally shipped into our ports. They arrive as stowaways in ballast water, or attach themselves to the outer hulls of boats and ships, a condition known as biofouling.

Despite this knowledge, there remain significant gaps in regulations of these two pathways. Most ships are required to exchange their ballast water in the open ocean, which offers some protection. But in the case of ships coming from the mouth of the Columbia River—a known hot-spot for potential invaders— ballast water can still be dumped directly into Puget Sound. Researchers worry that this could open the door for species of concern such as the green crab, or tiny crustaceans known as copepods that may already be interfering with the Puget Sound food web. The other major pathway, biofouling, is almost entirely unregulated.

Officials are just starting to develop—and debate—plans to address these issues. You can read the entire series on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

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Killer whale miscarriages linked to low food supply

A Southern Resident Killer Whale is about to surface with her young calf. Photo: NOAA Fisheries, Vancouver Aquarium under NMFS research permit and FAA flight authorization.

A Southern Resident Killer Whale is about to surface with her young calf. Photo: NOAA Fisheries, Vancouver Aquarium under NMFS research permit and FAA flight authorization.

New techniques for studying orcas have been credited with breakthroughs in reproductive and developmental research. Drones and dogs are helping scientists connect declines in food supply with low birth rates and poor health.

Read the story this week in Salish Sea Currents. 

 

 

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Salish Sea snapshots: Detecting harmful algal blooms

Monitoring devices deployed by NOAA for detecting harmful algal blooms. Photo by Rachael Mueller.

Monitoring devices deployed by NOAA for detecting harmful algal blooms. Photo by Rachael Mueller.

New technology may provide early detection of harmful algal blooms in Puget Sound. This toxic algae is expected to increase as the climate changes, bringing with it new and potentially more severe outbreaks of shellfish poisonings.

Read the article by Rachael Mueller in Salish Sea Currents.

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Mystery remains in deaths of young salmon

Key hypotheses include bottom-up and top-down processes and additional factors such as toxics, disease, and competition. Graphic: Michael Schmidt, Salish Sea Marine Survival Project

Key hypotheses include bottom-up and top-down processes and additional factors such as toxics, disease, and competition. Graphic: Michael Schmidt, Salish Sea Marine Survival Project

The Salish Sea Marine Survival Project has mobilized dozens of organizations in the U.S. and Canada to find an answer to one of the region’s greatest mysteries. What is killing so many young salmon before they can return home to spawn? A series of talks at the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference brought together some of the latest research.

Read the story in Salish Sea Currents. 

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Advances in technology help researchers evaluate threatened Puget Sound steelhead

A steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the Cascade River, WA, 2014. Photo: © Morgan Bond http://www.morganhbond.com/

A steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in the Cascade River, WA, 2014. Photo: © Morgan Bond http://www.morganhbond.com/

New, smaller acoustic tags will allow scientists to track steelhead migrations in Puget Sound in ways that were once impossible. Will this new technology provide answers to the mysterious decline of these now-threatened fish?

Read the article in Salish Sea Currents.

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Salish Sea ‘slime’ vital for shorebirds

Studies suggest that western sandpipers depend on biofilm for close to 60% of their diet. Storey's Beach, Port Hardy, BC. Photo: Nicole Beaulac (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/nicolebeaulac/26579296150

Studies suggest that western sandpipers depend on biofilm for close to 60% of their diet. Storey’s Beach, Port Hardy, BC. Photo: Nicole Beaulac (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

It turns out that a gooey substance known as biofilm is a big deal for Salish Sea shorebirds, providing critical food for some species. But could a proposed port expansion in Vancouver threaten this slimy resource? Read the latest article in Salish Sea Currents

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New theory rethinks spread of PCBs and other toxics in Puget Sound

Puget Sound's orcas are among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world. Photo: Minette Layne (CC-BY-2.0) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_whale#/media/File:Orca_porpoising.jpg

Puget Sound’s orcas are among the most contaminated marine mammals in the world. A new theory rethinks how PCBs and other toxics enter the food web.Photo: Minette Layne (CC-BY-2.0)

Last month, more than 1100 scientists and researchers converged on Vancouver, B.C. to attend the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference. The biennial conference is the region’s largest gathering on the state of the ecosystem, and we sent a group of reporters to bring back some of the highlights. Over the next several months, we’ll be collecting those highlights into a new series on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. We kick things off today with a must-read story from Christopher Dunagan. He reports that scientists may be changing their view of how PCBs and other toxics enter the Puget Sound food web. Read the story in Salish Sea Currents.

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Paper looks at social–ecological approaches to herring management

Graphic from 'Thirty-two essential questions for understanding the social–ecological system of forage fish: the case of Pacific Herring'

Graphic from ‘Thirty-two essential questions for understanding the social–ecological system of forage fish: the case of Pacific Herring’

A new paper co-authored by PSI’s Tessa Francis connects social and ecological factors influencing herring management in the Salish Sea. The paper, published in the journal Ecosystem Health and Sustainability, grew out of a three-day workshop held last year in British Columbia. The workshop was sponsored by The Ocean Modeling Forum, a collaboration between the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences at the University of Washington and NOAA Fisheries. It brought together a variety of herring experts, from commercial fishermen to scientists, regulators and members of regional tribes. NOAA’s Phillip Levin was the paper’s lead author, with Nathan Taylor of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Tessa Francis, lead ecosystem ecologist at PSI, as co-authors.

Citation:

Levin, Phillip S., Francis, Tessa B., Taylor, Nathan G. (2016) Thirty-two essential questions for understanding the social–ecological system of forage fish: the case of Pacific Herring. Ecosystem Health and Sustainability. 2(4):e01213. doi: 10.1002/ehs2.1213.

Related article:

Ocean Modeling Forum to bring human element to herring fishery, others (UW Today)

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PSI armoring report featured on KUOW

KUOW's John Ryan interviews Aimee Kinney about the ecological impacts of shoreline armoring.

KUOW’s John Ryan interviews Aimee Kinney about the ecological impacts of shoreline armoring. Photo by Jeff Rice. 

KUOW interviewed PSI’s Aimee Kinney today about the impacts of shoreline armoring on the Puget Sound ecosystem. Kinney was the lead author of an analysis report of recent nearshore studies funded by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. New studies reveal that shoreline armoring degrades beach ecology and hurts Puget Sound species like forage fish and salmon. Read the analysis report on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

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