Prairies in the Pacific Northwest- Natural history and current challenges in this conservation landscape

untitledHannah Anderson Center for natural lands management;

A look at a lesser known precious and rare habitat, the prairies of the Puget sound. Human development has hit our prairies pretty hard. Habitat degradation is also a serious problem when it comes to prairie habitat restoration.  Large trees , oak grass, and scotch broom are species encroaching on prairie habitat.

“A rare habitat equals rare species” some of the species of concern include, Streak horned Lark, Pocket goffer, and checker spot butterfly (Pictured above).

One of the partners of CNLM is JBLM, the local military base. This base is one of the last highest quality habitats for the streak horned lark and the checker spot butterfly. The artillery range o base serves both the DOD and species of concern as well as endangered species like the checker spot butter fly.

The Sustainability in Prisons Project is another partner of CNLM they have partnered with Department of corrections to restore endangered species of prairie taxa. Having previously worked with this organization I have nothing but praise for all the work they have done in the realm of prairie management, plant production, and endangered/native species reestablishment.

In conclusion an overall restoration success!


Mussel Watch

Jennifer Lanksbury DFW:

Mussels are natural environmental samplers or indicators. Mussels are ideal to sample Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons PAHs from they unlike other shellfish mussels have no liver function and can contain chemicals for up to two months. PAHs are molecules found in oil and coal or fossil fuels. Department of fish and wildlife worked with the National Mussel Watch to compare data gathered from the Puget sound and other water sheds.

DFW did a pilot study ranging the Straight of Georgia to the South Puget Sound. Using mussels to evaluate near shore contamination.  Transplanted mussels were used instead of natural mussels to increase repeatability and decrease variability. PAH is one contaminate that is of concern.

PAH are shown to increase with impervious surfaces. The over all findings of the study show outliers in the PAH data indicating that impervious surface may not be the only near shore factor to consider.

PAH fingerprinting can be used to evaluate near shore contamination.

Shore Friendly: Reducing shoreline armor, parcel and owner characteristics

Heather Trim;

WDFW and EPA joined together to conduct a study collecting shoreline armouring data, parcel data, and owner surveys Sound wide.

The teams goal was to create social marketing behavior change strategy that will lead to residential landowners changing their shoreline armoring-related behaviors.

Social marketing is intended to increase motivators and decrease barriers. Some barriers with leaving shoreline unarmored include land owners property not protected from erosion or property not being protected after removal or existing armoring. Some motivators include providing healthy habitat for fish and wild life as well as getting a tax break and reducing fees to land owners.

Their findings include 57% of sound wide parcels are residential parcels, most residential parcels have shoreline armouring Thurston and Mason is the largest forage fish spawning areas that are armoured. 46% of these residential areas are unoccupied parcels. In other words the parcels that are effecting the forage fish spawning areas are mostly uninhabited by home owners.

They also looked at parcel size, land value,  and age or owners. Heather found that if the parcel size is larger it is also less likely to be armoured.

Pacific Northwest Climate Science Conference; Linking science and decision making

Attending this conference was nothing short of enlightening and informative. I was honored to be in the presence of over 250 climate change specialists and researchers from all around the region.

Presenters discussed everything from climate change adaptation to mitigation planning. Our main task was to review scientific results, challenges, and solutions related to the impacts of climate change on first peoples, natural resources, and infrastructure in the Pacific Northwest.

Following the presentations was an inspirational speech given by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee about increasing resilience in the Pacific Northwest (PNW).

What is causing the climate to change? It is mostly human consumption of fossil fuels. Eighty four percent of the world’s energy comes from fossil fuels. Fossil fuel usage is one of the largest contributors to global warming. The use of fossil fuels increases our carbon dioxide emissions or carbon footprint. We have dumped more than 1.325 trillion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The path that we are on will lead to a 5-50 inch increase in sea level and approximately a four degrees Celsius warmer world by the end of the century. Imagine what a 5-50in rise in sea level could do to our shorelines. Though I was aware of the many consequences that the over use of fossil fuels has on our planet, I had no idea that I would see the impacts in my lifetime. For example, the picture below is downtown Olympia in the year 2100 if we do nothing to mitigate climate change.

(The dark blue indicates sea level rise)

(The dark blue indicates sea level rise)

Why plan and prepare for impacts of climate change? First our tribal communities, culture, employment, and way of life is all connected to our first foods. Our traditions and ceremonies depend on healthy salmon runs as well as shellfish harvesting. Sea level rise caused by climate change could cause our first foods to no longer be available to our people. Second our treaties and regulations only serve our community if there are salmon and shellfish to harvest. For instance, temperature increases between one and five degrees Fahrenheit could cause our cedar trees to be found in new locations, likely outside our usually and accustom treaty grounds. If trees like the red cedar are no longer found in their traditional locations at optimal harvesting times how will we teach the next generation to weave? Developing a plan of action now is key to preserving our community’s way of life.