Urban development can alter the complex interaction of geological, biological, and hydrological processes that maintain nearshore ecosystem health. Urbanization is known to alter the flows of water, sediments, nutrients, and contaminants from coastal watersheds, which then may impact nearby nearshore ecosystems. In addition, human alterations adjacent to the shore, such as armoring and removal of riparian vegetation, may impact nearshore ecosystems even in areas far removed from population centers. Effective restoration of impacted nearshore processes within Puget Sound requires an understanding of how ecosystems function in a variety of nearshore settings with and without urban impacts.
Current work is focused on quantifying the processes that influence physical and chemical aspects of nearshore habitat and how these affect general nearshore ecosystem health. Ecosystem health will be measured by indicator variables including population structure, growth, reproduction, and survival of native species; presence and abundance of exotic and invasive species; and the presence and distribution of contaminants in sediments and indicator species. Geospatial measures will be developed to better define watershed urbanization and shoreline modifications that impact nearshore ecosystem health.