Coastal Habitats in Puget Sound

Science Center Objects

A Pacific Northwest icon, Puget Sound is the second-largest estuary in the United States. Its unique geology, climate, and nutrient-rich waters produce and sustain biologically productive coastal habitats. These same natural characteristics also contribute to a high quality of life that has led to growth in human population and urbanization. This growth has played a role in degrading the Sound, including declines in fish and wildlife populations, water-quality issues, and changes in coastal habitats. Natural resource managers look to the USGS as a critical science resource needed to solve problems in this important ecosystem.

The deterioration of the Puget Sound nearshore is of special concern — the area extending from the top of shoreline bluffs to a depth offshore where sunlight does not reach the bottom, and upstream in estuaries to the head of tidal influence. It includes bluffs, beaches, mudflats, kelp and eelgrass beds, salt marshes, gravel spits, and estuaries. Because the nearshore is one of the most productive parts of the Sound, improved understanding of it is vital to restoration and preservation of the entire Sound.

To develop a restoration program, Federal, State, Tribal, and local governments, non-governmental organizations, universities, and private industry joined in 2001 to create the Puget Sound Nearshore Ecosystem Restoration Project (PSNERP). In December 2005, protection and restoration of Puget Sound was expanded in scope with the creation of the Puget Sound Partnership. As a task force within the Governor of Washington's Puget Sound Initiative, the Puget Sound Partnership's goal is to develop recommendations to restore the Sound by 2020.

The overall scientific goal of the CHIPS project is to provide scientific support for ecosystem recovery activities in Puget Sound. Through its diverse studies, the CHIPS project strives to demonstrate a structure and process for conducting interdisciplinary ecosystem science.