Sunday marked the halfway point in my ongoing series “Taking the Pulse of Puget Sound,” which examines the health of our waterway and asks the question, “With all the money being spent on restoration, are we making any progress?”
For me, the series so far has been an adventure and a learning experience, thanks to abundant help from the many great scientists and smart policy makers we have in this region.
The first half of the project has focused largely on species, including humans; herring and organisms at the base of the food web; salmon and marine fish; marine mammals; and Sunday’s piece on birds (subscription).
Still to come are stories about marine water quality, freshwater quality, upland habitat, water quantity and the future.
As a reporter, I regret that everyone can’t read all these stories immediately without a subscription to the Kitsap Sun, but I have to trust that these kinds of business decisions will allow me to keep doing my work. Still, many of the stories, photos and graphics in this series are available now with or without subscription, starting with the lead page, “Taking the Pulse of Puget Sound,” and moving through the series:
- “Human values count in Puget Sound recovery”
- Map of shellfish areas, including those closed because of biotoxins or pollution.
- “Environment’s health starts at the bottom”
- “The foundation of all life in Puget Sound”
- “Eelgrass is both food and shelter”
- “Shoreline armoring threatens base of the food web”
- Interactive graphics on herring biomass, shoreline armoring and acreage of eelgrass along with a food web diagram.
- Graphics on “Ten Puget Sound bottom fish you may not know (click on the fish),” “Habitats for salmon species” and “Changes in salmon populations.”
- Graphics on marine mammals of Puget Sound and orca population history.
Some of the larger points from the latest seabird story:
- Puget Sound has about 70 common species of marine birds. Many populations are in decline but some appear to be stable and a few are increasing.
- The winter population is about four times as large as the summer population, reaching a peak of roughly half a million birds.
- Because birds can fly from one place to another, their choices of location can tell us something about the health of one place compared to another in Puget Sound.
- If the population of a wintering bird species is in decline, you need to know something about its migration route and nesting area before you can conclude that conditions in Puget Sound are to blame.
- The marbled murrelet, a “threatened” species, is an odd bird, first identified by early explorers in the late 1700s but whose nesting habits weren’t discovered until 1974.
- Researchers are trying to learn why two similar birds — tufted puffins and rhinoceros auklets — are faring differently in Puget Sound. Steep declines are seen for tufted puffins, which may be headed for an endangered species listing, while rhinoceros auklets are on the increase. Their varying behaviors are at the center of discussion.
- Ecosystem indicators for birds, as chosen by the Puget Sound Partnership, are more involved than most other indicators. They focus on the densities of four bird species and also consider food supply and reproductive success.