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Problems in the Nearshore

Nearshore ecosystems have changed as our communities have grown and developed.  PSNERP identified six pervasive problems within Puget Sound associated with physical changes of the nearshore:


Barriers in large river deltas restrict the movement of fresh water and tides

Shorebirds need large river deltas and nearshore wetlands to rest and “fuel up” as they migrate through Puget Sound to their northerly breeding grounds.

Problem 1

Small coastal inlets have been blocked off and filled in

Salmon need large river deltas, small coastal inlets, and shallow water areas to rest, feed, and hide from predators.

Problem 2

Armoring along beaches and bluffs prevents sediment from replenishing beaches and intertidal areas

Bulkheads can prevent sediment from coastal bluffs from reaching the shoreline, resulting in fewer and smaller beaches.

Problem 3

Nearshore wetlands have been eliminated

Loss of nearshore wetlands makes shorelines more vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise because wetlands help absorb energy from  storms, waves, and high flows.

Problem 4

Shoreline has become shorter, simpler, and more artificial

Loss of nearshore habitat has ecological, economic, recreational, and cultural effects:  there are fewer salmon to catch, fewer clams to harvest, and fewer sandy beaches to enjoy.

Problem 5

Many places are affected by multiple types of changes.

While small scale alterations may be insignificant by themselves, cumulative impacts build over time,  compounding the adverse effects.

Problem 6

Why should I care
about  problems
in the nearshore?

· Nine of the ten species listed as endangered or threatened within the Puget Sound region inhabit the nearshore.

· Altered river deltas contribute to flood problems experienced by upstream communities

· Contaminated shellfish and reduced habitat are bad for the shellfish and also for people whose livelihoods depend on them.

· Urban and suburban developments have taken away critical shoreline, estuarine, and nearshore habitats.

· Armoring of the shoreline, especially eroding bluffs, to protect poorly located upland structures, means less sand and gravel available to maintain the beaches humans enjoy on sunny summer days.

Implications of Observed Anthropogenic Changes to the Nearshore Ecosystems in Puget Sound

Implications of Observed Anthropogenic Changes to the Nearshore Ecosystems in Puget Sound

(PDF, 842 KB)

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Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project
Updated July 2016