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PBI contributes to Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

 

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PACIFIC BIODIVERSITY INSTITUTE

PBI Contributes to Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview

September 18, 2015

The harbor porpoise is one of the best indicator species of the health of the Salish Sea. PBI is conducting long-term research on the harbor porpoise populationits movement, behavior and distributionand is sharing this information with Washington State agencies, and as a collaborator on the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program's Marine Waters Work Group. We are pleased to have contributed to the recently-released Puget Sound Marine Waters Report, and are gaining valuable insights from comparing our data to that of the other contributors. For example, forage fish are likely a major factor in the distribution of the harbor porpoise and this report shows us changes in the herring stocks. Participating in and sharing information through the Marine Waters Work Group broadens our understanding of how this complex, yet integrated ecosystem functions.

Many scientists are watching the waters of Puget Sound. The Marine Waters Work Group (PBI is a member) compiles thousands of observations and data points into easy to understand status and trends showing how environmental aspects of Puget Sound are changing, and how conditions that support jobs and economic opportunity may change in response.

You can access the full report here.
2014 was a year of unusual events in many respects. Some highlights discussed in the report include:

•    The “Blob” of warmer than usual water in the NE Pacific Ocean formed two winters ago because of highly unusual wind and weather patterns. This patch of water entered Puget Sound in 2014, resulting in the highest water temperatures observed in the Sound in 16 years. Warmer than usual waters persisted in the Sound this summer. Some scientists, including PBI's researchers, are concerned that the Blob may be an early warning signal of the harmful effects of global warming.

•    Blooms of harmful algae that can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning occurred for the first time in Hood Canal in the fall of 2014 and resurfaced and expanded this spring and summer. As global warming accelerates, this may become much more common.

•    Harbor porpoise were historically common in Puget Sound, but had almost completely disappeared by the 1960s and remained absent through the 1990s. Since the early 2000s, the harbor porpoise population appears to have recovered to some extent in Puget Sound. PBI's long-term investigation of the porpoise is focused on determining if this trend is continuing or if other marine ecosystem health factors are limiting its recovery.

•    Puget Sound air temperatures were much warmer than normal in 2014, ranking as the second warmest year since records began in 1895. Again, this is an indication of our dramatically changing climate.

Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program - Marine Waters Work Group
Aileen Jeffries (3rd from left, back row) leads PBI's Harbor Porpoise Project.

A Special Thanks to the 2014-2015 Harbor Porpoise Project Funders
Charlotte Martin Foundation, Kongsgaard-Goldman Foundation, Orange County Community Foundation, Mountaineers Foundation, Norcross Wildlife Foundation

We would also like to thank all our generous individual donors.
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