Habitat

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Habitat in the Puget Sound

Successful projects help to recover and protect habitat

Habitat restoration and protection is paramount for Puget Sound salmon recovery. While challenges remain (development, marine survival, climate change, etc.) significant progress is being made throughout the region through restoration and protection:

  • Smith Island Estuary Restoration (Snohomish County): restored more than 300 acres of Puget Sound tidal wetland, providing slow water for young salmon to rest, feed, and grow before moving to the ocean.
  • Busy Wild Creek Protection (Nisqually): protected more than 1,000 acres of important salmon habitat, including about4 miles of Busy Wild Creek and tributary streams, the steep shoreline bluffs on the northeast side of the river, and adjacent forest.
  • Fir Island Farm Restoration (Skagit River): restored tidal flooding to 126 acres, supporting estuary habitat for salmon, maintaining snow goose management and public access, and providing flood protection for farmland.

Continued growth and development threatens habitat quality

While we are making progress in habitat protection and restoration around the Sound, we are continuing to lose valuable salmon habitat in many areas. In some watersheds, development is surpassing restoration. Success in recovering salmon runs will require both restoring degraded habitat and ramping up protection of functioning habitat. The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission’s State of Our Watersheds report provides information about habitat problems in Puget Sound. The report also notes the greatest pressures affecting salmon recovery:

  • Shoreline Armoring
  • Impervious Surfaces, Stormwater Runoff, and Water Quality
  • Permit-Exempt Wells
  • Loss of Forest Cover
  • Fish Passage Barriers
  • Development in Floodplains and Estuaries
  • High rate of human population growth

The Puget  Sound Vital Signs report provides information about the health of Puget Sound though indicators and targets representing water, habitat, species and food webs, and human wellbeing.

Indicator data

Habitat Projects

What does this indicator mean?

Habitat Quality

What does this indicator mean?

LARGE WOOD (VOLUME) – CLICK >> TO OPEN LEGEND

Human development is destroying areas critical to salmon. For example, although this region naturally has streams with large volumes of in-stream wood, Department of Ecology monitoring suggests that levels in the region have diminished over the recent centuries. Most sampled stream sites in the Puget Sound Salmon Recovery Region show low levels of wood volume when compared to natural conditions. Large woody materials, such as tree root wads and logs, create places for fish to rest and hide from predators. They also slow the water, which reduces erosion and the amount of sediment in the streams. Slower water allows small gravels to settle to the bottom for spawning areas. Finally, they change the flow of the river, creating riffles and deep cold pools, giving fish more varied habitat. Projects that add large woody materials to streams can help to counteract the damage from human activities. Projects that protect or add trees along the sides of streams also can help in the longer term.

 

Biological integrity is estimated to have improved in this region. More monitoring is necessary to see if the pattern persists and represents a trend.

 

There is too much sediment in the salmon and trout streams in this region. About 7 of every 10 kilometers has more than 18.5 percent sediment in its bed and this seems unchanged from 2009 to 2013. More than 18.5 percent of the stream bed is considered too much sediment for members of the salmon family.

 

COPPER IN STREAM SEDIMENTS – CLICK >> TO OPEN LEGEND

Copper levels in the streams monitored in this region do not appear to be high as in other regions. Less sediment in streams, especially when sediment contains copper, will lessen the threat to salmon and other fish.

 


In the Puget Sound region, the estimated extent of streams with high disturbance decreased. In 2009, 21 percent of kilometers were estimated as highly disturbed. In 2013, 9 percent of kilometers were estimated as highly disturbed. More monitoring is necessary to see if this pattern persists and represents a trend.

 


The Department of Ecology estimates that streambank shade improved in this region. In 2009, they estimated 47 percent of stream kilometers to have good riparian cover while in 2013 they estimated 83 percent. More monitoring is necessary to see if this pattern persists and represents a trend.

Land Use Changes

What does this indicator mean?

The need for homes, businesses, roads, and agriculture must be balanced with protection of the important functions provided by forests and rivers. During the past 50 years, the Puget Sound region lost at least two-thirds of its remaining old-growth forests, more than 90 percent of its native prairies, and 80 percent of its marshes. Since 2006, we’ve seen the rate of forest loss decline, nearly reaching the target of not more than 1,000 acres a year lost. However, we are seeing increases in the development of ecologically important lands. For more detail, visit the Puget Sound Vital Signs.

ACRES OF FOREST LOSS BY YEAR IN PUGET SOUND

 

LAND CONVERSION FROM VEGETATED TO DEVELOPED COVER,

OF ECOLOGICALLY IMPORTANT LANDS UNDER HIGH PRESSURE OF

DEVELOPMENT IN 12 PUGET SOUND COUNTIES

 

For more information about habitat project actions, visit the Recreation and Conservation Office’s Habitat Work Schedule and Project Search public databases.

Visit How we measure for background about this data, and our Salmon Data Portal for original source data behind the indicator charts and graphs used throughout this site.