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  • Estimating changes in juvenile Chinook rearing area and carrying capacity in estuarine and freshwater habitats of the Puget Sound region


Northwest Fisheries Science Center (NWFSC) Fish Ecology


Freshwater-estuarine capacity
Estimating changes in juvenile Chinook rearing area and carrying capacity in estuarine and freshwater habitats of the Puget Sound region
This project has two objectives:

1. Estimate the amount of rearing habitat available to juvenile Chinook salmon currently and historically (i.e., ~1850s) throughout the Puget Sound region

2. Estimate the carrying capacity of the habitat in the region to support juvenile Chinook under current and historical conditions.

Krista Bartz is the principal investigator for the project, and most of the analytical work is complete (as of May 2012). The remaining work involves completing a manuscript describing the work. Specific product for this project is a manuscript (likely the North American Journal of Fisheries Management).

Audience for the project was initially intended to be NWFSC staff involved in parameterizing a Puget Sound-wide life-cycle model for Chinook salmon. Since ~2008, when that effort stalled, there has been a resurgence in interest in developing such a model.

This is a one-time, stand-alone with soft deadlines in October 2012 to send the manuscript for internal review and December 2012 to send the manuscript to the journal.

Data Sets

no data found

Research Themes

Habitats to support sustainable fisheries and recovered populations
Healthy oceans, coastal waters, and riverine habitats provide the foundation for aquatic resources used by a diversity of species and society. Protecting marine, estuarine and freshwater ecosystems that support these species relies on science to link habitat condition/processes and the biological effects of restoration actions. The NWFSC provides the habitat science behind many management actions taken by NOAA Fisheries and other natural resource agencies to protect and recover aquatic ecosystems and living marine resources. The NWFSC also maintains a longstanding focus on toxic chemical contaminants, as a foundation for regional and national research on pollution threats to fisheries and protected resources.
Recovery and rebuilding of marine and coastal species
The Pacific Northwest is home to several iconic endangered species, including Pacific salmon and killer whales, and several rockfish species. Mandates such as the Endangered Species Act, MagnusonStevens Act, and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, grant NOAA Fisheries the authority to manage the recovery of depleted species and stocks. The NWFSC contributes to species recovery through research, monitoring and analysis, providing NOAA managers and regional stakeholders the tools and information they need to craft effective regulations and develop sustainable plans for recovery.

Research Foci

Characterize the interaction of human use and habitat distribution, quantity and quality
The ability to define the state of an ecosystem requires insight into the natural processes within habitats, and how anthropogenic interactions with these processes can alter ecosystems and marine organisms. A wide diversity of human activities -- land use and water withdrawals, industrialization and dredging, fishing practices and climate change (e.g., ocean acidification) -- directly and indirectly impact critical freshwater, estuarine, and marine habitats. To best manage west coast marine, estuarine and freshwater habitats in a sustainable fashion, it is necessary to map the spatial and temporal footprint of human impacts and review their potential biological impact on each species of interest. Measurement parameters will be developed to determine the full range of human impacts using spatial data and improved habitat classification.
Describe the relationships between human activities and species recovery, rebuilding and sustainability
Human activities play a major role in determining the status of species and stocks. Rebuilding and recovery therefore need to address how these activities affect their status. At the NWFSC, biophysical modeling is used to link specific human activities such as land use and pollution to habitat conditions, and then to link these conditions and other activities to particular life stages. These models can be used to quantitatively assess how human activities influence species abundance, productivity, distribution and diversity. Not surprisingly, altering human activities in some way is often necessary for species or stock recovery and rebuilding. It is therefore important to understand the socio-economic effects of alternative management structures. Gathering data on their economic costs and social impacts helps identify actions that are cost-effective. These actions will need to be resilient to potential changes in climate throughout the region. Research on how humans react to management strategies helps policy makers avoid those that lead to unintended consequences that can hinder rather than help recovery.
Develop effective and efficient habitat restoration and conservation techniques
Maintaining and re-establishing viability and sustainability of living marine resources requires conservation and rehabilitation or restoration of habitats upon which species depend. Common habitat restoration approaches and tech-niques often presume that habitats are static features of the environment, and that creation of stable habitats is a desirable restoration strategy. However, riverine, nearshore, and marine habitats are created and sustained by dynamic landscape, climatic, and oceanographic processes and biota are adapted to changing habitats that are within the range of natural variability. Hence, current restoration strategies often have limited success, in part because they fail to recognize larger scale processes that drive habitat change, and in part because they fail to recognize intrinsic habitat potential of individual restoration sites. The main goals of this research focus are to: improve understanding of how large-scale processes create diverse and dynamic habitats that support marine and anadromous species, better understand how human activities alter habitat-forming processes and habitats, develop new restoration techniques that are compatible with sustainable habitat-forming processes, and understand the variety of actions needed to adequately conserve intact critical habitats. In addition, NWFSC’s research will improve understanding of how new and existing habitat restoration and protection techniques affect fish and habitat at multiple scales (i.e., reach, watershed, Evolutionarily Significant Unit).


Chinook salmon
species of interest
Puget Sound
Puget Sound
habitat capacity
maximum density or abundance for a particular habitat type or unit


Draft manuscript in preparation, not submitted yet


Species Oncorhynchus tshawytscha
Chinook salmon, king salmon, spring salmon


Beth Sanderson
Hiroo Imaki
Timothy Beechie
Principal Investigator