State of the Washington Coast: Ecology, Management, and Research Priorities


Published: June 2011

Pages: 82

Author(s): Elizabeth Skewgar, Megan Dethier, Scott F. Pearson, Gretchen Blatz, Kenneth I. Warheit, and Michele Culver

The State of the Washington Coast (2011) describes the ecological communities of the outer coast between Cape Flattery and the Columbia River, including major coastal estuaries. Important stressors on ecological communities and their habitats are included. The report also describes current management approaches on the outer coast, and identifies research priorities to increase understanding of stressors and improve management responses. Funding for the creation of the report was provided by the State of Washington's settlement with the responsible parties in the Nestucca spill of 1988.

Executive Summary

The State of the Washington Coast report describes the physical habitats and ecological communities of Washingtonfs outer coast between Cape Flattery and the mouth of the Columbia River. The ShoreZone mapping system is used to characterize the near shore physical habitats that determine the extent of biological communities. These habitats and communities are affected by physical processes, such as currents, tides, and climate. They are also affected by stressors which humans cause or may contribute to, such as oil pollution, climate change, harvest and disturbance, non-native invasive species, habitat loss, and harmful algal blooms. Washington State has developed a variety of mechansims to manage the outer coast, including governmental coordination, marine protected areas, species and habitat monitoring and management, environmental monitoring, oil spill response, and ecological restoration. However, current approaches are not adequate to balance the multiple needs and increasing pressures of human uses of coastal natural resources. Two related areas for increased research are ecosystem-based management and marine spatial planning. Both will require new administrative mechanisms and scientific data on key indicators of the well-being of coastal natural resources and human communities.

Suggested citation

Skewgar, E. and S.F. Pearson (Eds.). 2011. State of the Washington Coast: Ecology, Management, and Research Priorities. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington.