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2010-2015 Juvenile fish ecology in the Nisqually River Delta and Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve

April 1, 2017

The return of tidal inundation to over 750 acres of the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge (NNWR) in fall of 2009 was the crowning moment in the effort to protect and restore the Nisqually Delta. The Nisqually NWR project complemented three earlier restoration projects completed by the Nisqually Indian Tribe (Tribe) on tribal property to restore over 900 acres of the estuary, representing the largest estuary restoration project in the Pacific Northwest and one of the most significant advances to date towards the recovery of Puget Sound (USFWS 2005).

In 2011 the Washington Department of Natural Resources (WADNR established the over 14000 acre Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve (Reserve), complementing the protection and restoration successes in the Nisqually Delta. The Reserve includes all state-owned aquatic lands around Anderson, Ketron and Eagle islands and part of McNeil Island (Figure 1, WDNR 2011). The Reserve also includes a diverse assemblage of nearshore and offshore habitats important to resident and migratory fish including federal endangered species act listed fish like Chinook salmon (Oncorynchus tshawytscha) and steelhead (O. mykiss). Studies in the Nisqually Estuary (Ellings and Hodgson 2007, David et al. 2014, Ellings et al. 2016) and South Puget Sound (Duffy 2003) have summarized fish use of the area. However, the fish ecology of the reserve had not been systematically surveyed.

The Tribe, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), NNWR, Nisqually River Foundation (NRF), and others are currently conducting a multi-year, interdisciplinary, hypothesis-based research and monitoring study investigating the impact of delta restoration on estuarine processes, habitat structures, and functions. Our interdisciplinary monitoring framework enables us to link key estuarine processes with habitat development and biological response at multiple scales across the restored footprint, reference marshes, and throughout the Nisqually Reach. Key research components include hydrology and sediment regime, channel and marsh topography and development, vegetation colonization, and invertebrate, bird, and fish abundance, habitat use, and foraging ecology. After the Reserve was established, the WDNR and the research partnership led by the Tribe expanded the existing delta fish ecology assessment to include sampling stations throughout the Reserve. The results of the Reserve fish ecology assessment provide a unique regional analysis of fish ecology from the Nisqually River to McNeil Island.

Publication Year 2017
Title 2010-2015 Juvenile fish ecology in the Nisqually River Delta and Nisqually Reach Aquatic Reserve
Authors Sayre Hodgson, Christopher S. Ellings, Steve P. Rubin, Michael C. Hayes, Walker Duval, Eric E. Grossman
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype Other Report
Series Title Salmon Recovery Program Technical Report
Series Number 2016-1
Index ID 70185241
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Western Fisheries Research Center