Assessing the Benefits and Vulnerability of Current and Future Potential Ecosystem Services of the Nisqually River Delta and other Puget Sound Estuaries

  • Nisqually Tribe
  • USGS Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
  • USGS Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
  • USGS California Water Science Center
  • Smithsonian Environmental Research Center
  • Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge
  • Northwest CASC
In Progress

The Nisqually River Delta represents the largest wetland restoration in the Pacific Northwest. The restoration resulted in a 50% increase in potential salt marsh habitat. The Delta supports threatened salmon fisheries, large populations of migratory birds, and provides unique opportunities for recreation. The Delta also provides multiple ecosystem services, which are the benefits that wildlife or ecosystems provide to people. Development and changing climate patterns threaten to alter the Delta and the ecosystem services it provides. This study aims to quantify the value of existing and potential future ecosystem services from the Delta and provide insight into the vulnerability of the mosaic of habitats that support these services to sea level rise and management actions.

Researchers will assess the ecosystem service benefits associated with management and restoration of coastal ecosystems of the Nisqually River Delta, including coastal habitats managed by the Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge and the Nisqually Indian Tribe. More specifically, researchers will analyze the ecosystem services and economic value associated with tribal and commercial fisheries, carbon sequestration, and recreational activities such as birdwatching. The research team will use data on regional salmon stock-recruitment, juvenile Chinook salmon food webs, and habitat change to estimate the economic benefits of tribal Chinook salmon fishing and possible climate change impacts. The team will also use regional crowd-sourced data from the eBird application to quantify and value birdwatching activity. This research will be used to assess tradeoffs in these ecosystem services under multiple management and sea level rise scenarios, which will support a Refuge Climate Change Adaptation Plan. Finally the team will work with land managers across the Puget Sound region to develop an approach to transfer tools developed in this research project to other estuaries and scale the ecosystem service assessment to a larger area.