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Natural Processes

Shorelines are dynamic areas affected by storm waves and tides, by landslides and floods, and long-term factors such as climate. Shorelines are also important to terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, and represent an important connection between the two. Natural processes include things like tidal flow and the mixing of fresh and salt water, erosion and sediment transport, organic decomposition and primary production.

Nearshore Ecosystems

Restoring natural processes that shape our shorelines results in self-sustaining restoration. When underlying processes are functioning, the system can maintain itself with little or no subsequent human intervention.

Because PSNERP addresses the Puget Sound nearshore holistically, we do not limit our focus to individual species. Instead PSNERP focuses on restoring natural processes which allows the shoreline to continue to provide habitat to numerous socially and economically important species that feed, rest, and reproduce in this unique zone.


Process-based Restoration

Why do we focus on natural process? Natural processes create the structure of habitats which support ecological functions for species and people. For example:


Coastal bluff erosion adds material to the shoreline

Coastal bluffs


Wind and waves move the material creating beaches made up of different material sizes (fine sandy beaches, cobble beaches, gravel beaches

Beach structure


Beaches with the right sized material are good places to lay eggs for sandlance and surf smelt (which are a recreational fishery for humans as well as a prey resource for salmon)

Fish spawn on beach

If a goal is to restore beaches to support sandlance and surf smelt spawning, one method of reaching this goal would be to manually place correctly sized material on the beach that would periodically need to be replenished as wind and waves moved it away. Or, the same result could be achieved by restoring the natural sediment input process from the coastal bluff. Therefore, process-based restoration has the greatest chance of restoring valued resources because it addresses the cause of the problem and fixes it so that the ecosystem can work properly and without continued human upkeep and maintenance.

Why focus on
ecosystem restoration?

Efforts to restore ecosystems without addressing impairments to underlying processes are less likely to succeed without additional work in the future. 

For ecosystem restoration to be sustainable it is essential to restore the natural processes that create and sustain the nearshore over time

Restoration Principles

Focusing on natural process-based restoration is one of four strategic guiding principles of PSNERP.

Guiding Restoration Principles

(PDF, 3 MB)

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Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project
Updated July 2016