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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Gearing up for the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference

SSEC_logoWatch for updates and stories from the 2016 Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound this week. We are sending ten science writers to Vancouver to cover important findings from the conference that will be published throughout the year as part of our Salish Sea Currents series. If you want a sense of what is happening during the week, our writers and others will be posting to Twitter using the hashtag #SSEC16. You’ll also be able to identify us by the signature #EoPS. See you in Vancouver!

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Sources of sand: maps show crucial ‘feeder bluffs’

Feeder bluff and beach at Fort Flagler Historical State Park. Marrowstone Island, WA. Photo: Kris Symer (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Feeder bluff and beach at Fort Flagler Historical State Park. Marrowstone Island, WA. Photo: Kris Symer (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

For more than a hundred years, property owners have seen shoreline erosion as the enemy. They have battled it with startling amounts of concrete and have lashed together so many protective beach structures that about a third of Puget Sound’s shoreline is now classified as armored. It’s a fitting term for this longstanding battle against the elements. But it turns out that in many cases erosion is actually a good thing—crucial, according to scientists— because it provides the sand and gravel needed for healthy beaches. Now environmental agencies are encouraging the removal of bulkheads or their replacement with more natural erosion controls. New maps identify locations where bulkhead removal is likely to provide the greatest ecological benefits.

Read the final installment of our series on shoreline armoring in Salish Sea Currents on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. 

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Studies show high amounts of illegal shoreline armoring

Chart: Local shoreline changes in King County (2012-13). Source: King County, 2014

Chart: Local shoreline changes in King County (2012-13). Source: King County, 2014

Our series on shoreline armoring continues today with two new stories. Studies show that a significant number of shoreline structures are being built illegally without required permits. We also report on efforts to educate shoreline property owners about alternatives to environmentally-damaging concrete bulkheads.

Read these stories and others from the series in the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

 

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New series looks at shoreline armoring

Storm surges against the bulkheads protecting beach houses at Mutiny Bay, WA. Photo: Scott Smithson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/dtwpuck/15725058917

Storm surges against the bulkheads protecting beach houses at Mutiny Bay, WA. Photo: Scott Smithson (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/dtwpuck/15725058917

Our online magazine Salish Sea Currents launches a six-story series today focusing on shoreline armoring in the Puget Sound region. Close to a third of Puget Sound’s shoreline is classified as armored with bulkheads and other structures meant to hold back storm surge and erosion. But new studies reveal the often significant toll this is taking on the environment. The series kicks off with a look at armoring’s impact on beach ecology and forage fish habitat.

Read the series on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.

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Puget Sound Day on the Hill 2016

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U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer introduced new stormwater legislation today.

Local agencies and stakeholders—including PSI— were in D.C. today to advocate for Puget Sound. Follow some of the action on social media, including Twitter posts at #saveoursound and #saveamericassound. Among the day’s highlights was a new stormwater bill introduced by Representative Derek Kilmer, who announced the legislation on Facebook.

Read the full text of H.R.4648 – Green Stormwater Infrastructure Investment Act.

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Herring fishery’s strength is in the sum of its parts, study finds

Young adult herring from Puget Sound.Margaret Siple/University of Washington

Young adult herring from Puget Sound.Margaret Siple/University of Washington

The online publication UW Today reports on a recent paper co-authored by PSI research scientist Tessa Francis. The paper, published in the journal Ocealogia, describes how individual herring populations in Puget Sound exhibit a portfolio effect, collectively influencing and stabilizing the region’s population as a whole. Francis teamed up with the paper’s lead author UW doctoral student Margaret Siple to analyze more than 40 years of herring data on 21 subpopulations in Puget Sound.

Read the feature in UW Today.

Citation:

Siple, M. C., & Francis, T. B. (2016). Population diversity in Pacific herring of the Puget Sound, USA. Oecologia, 180(1), 111-125.

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Will Ballard Locks withstand a major earthquake?

Ballard Locks from the air. Photo: Jeff Wilcox (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffwilcox/4805933588

Ballard Locks from the air. Photo: Jeff Wilcox (CC BY-NC 2.0) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jeffwilcox/4805933588

Concerns are growing that an earthquake or major ship accident could cause a failure that would halt ship traffic — or, worse, drop water levels in Lake Washington and Lake Union by up to 20 feet. That could mean stranded boats, disabled bridges and big problems for salmon restoration.

Read the story in Salish Sea Currents on the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound. 

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In the news: UWT talk aims to root methanol debate in science

TacomaNewsTribuneLogoThe News Tribune reported on an upcoming discussion series on a proposed methanol plant in Tacoma. The series is sponsored in part by our parent group the Center for Urban Waters at the University of Washington.

Columnist Matt Driscoll writes:
  • A four-part series on Tacoma’s proposed methanol plant starts Thursday at UWT
  • Joel Baker, the science director at the Center for Urban Waters, hopes to focus on the facts
  • Whether Tacomans will be receptive remains to be seen

Read more about the discussion series.

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