, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 1104–1116 | Cite as

Geospatial habitat change analysis in Pacific Northwest coastal estuaries

  • Amy B. Borde
  • Ronald M. Thom
  • Steven Rumrill
  • Lee M. Miller


We assessed historical changes in the location and amount of potential estuarine habitat in three of the four largest coastal estuaries in the United States Pacific Northwest (Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay, and Coos Bay) as part of the Pacific Northwest Coastal Ecosystem Regional Study (PNCERS). To accomplish the historical assessment, navigation charts, hydrographic survey data, maps, and published descriptions were used to gain information on the location of the shoreline, bathymetry, and vegetated habitats, which were then digitized and subjected to geospatial analysis using a geographic information system (GIS). We used present-day elevational boundaries for marshes, flats, and eelgrass meadows to help define habitat areas where they were not indicated, on historical maps. The analysis showed that tidal flats have decreased in all study areas, potential eelgrass,Zostera marina L., habitat has increased in Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay and decreased slightly in Coos Bay, tidal wetland area has declined in all three coastal estuaries with increases in localized areas due to filling and sedimentation, and dramatic changes have occurred at the mouths of Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay. These data illustrate that direct physical alteration (filling and diking) has resulted in large changes to habitats. Forest practices in the watershed, as well as variation in climatic factors and oceanographic processes, may also have contributed to changes. The information provides more evidence for managing estuarine habitats in the region and employing historical templates to plan habitat restoration in the future.


Salt Marsh Tidal Marsh Tidal Wetland Tidal Elevation Coastal Estuary 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Literature Cited

  1. Adam, P. 2002. Saltmarshes in a time of change.Environmental Conservation 29:39–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armstrong, D. A., C. Rooper, andD. R. Gunderson. 2003. Estuarine production of juvenile dungeness crab (Cancer magister) and contribution to the Oregon-Washington coastal fishery.Estuaries 26:1174–1188.Google Scholar
  3. Boulé, M. E., N. Olmsted, andT. Miller. 1983. Inventory of wetland resources and evaluation of wetland management in Western Washington. Prepared for Washington State Department of Ecology. Shapiro and Associates, Inc., Seattle, Washington.Google Scholar
  4. Buijsman, M. 2002. The relation between jetty construction/rehabilitation and shoreline change at the entrance to Grays Harbor, p. 201–208.In G. Gelfenbaum and G. M. Kaminsky (eds.), Southwest Washington Coastal Erosion Workshop Report 2000. USGS Open-File Report 02-229. U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California and Washignton State Department of Ecology. Olympia, Washington.Google Scholar
  5. Cordell, J. R., C. A. Simenstad, B. Feist, K. L. Fresh, R. M. Thom, D. J. Stouder, andV. Luiting. 1998. Ecological Effects ofSpartina alterniflora Invasion of the Littoral Flat Community in Willapa Bay, Washington. Abstracts from the Eighth International Zebra Mussel and Other Nuisance Species Conference, Sacramento California March 16–19, 1998. California Sea Grant Program, La Jolla, California.Google Scholar
  6. Coulton, K. G., P. B. Williams, andP. A. Benner. 1996. An Environmental History of the Tillamook Bay Estuary and Watershed. Tillamook Bay National Estuary Program Technical Report 09-96. The Tillamook Bay National Estuary Projects, Garibaldi, Oregon.Google Scholar
  7. Crowell, M., S. P. Leatherman, andM. K. Buckley. 1991. Historical shoreline change: Error analysis and mapping accuracy.Journal of Coastal Research 7:839–852.Google Scholar
  8. Daniels, C. R. andR. H. Huxford. 2001. An error assessment of vector data derived from scanned National Ocean Service topographic sheets.Journal of Coastal Research 17:611–619.Google Scholar
  9. Dean, T., A. Ferdana, J. White, andC. Tanner. 2001. Skagit Estuary Restoration Assessment. People for Puget Sound, Seattle, Washington.Google Scholar
  10. Dobson, J. E., E. A. Bright, R. L. Ferguson, D. W. Field, L. L. Wood, K. D. Haddad, H. Iredale, II,J. R. Jensen, V. V. Klemas, R. J. Orth, andJ. P. Thomas. 1995. NOAA Coastal Change Analysis Program (C-CAP): Guidance for Regional Implementation. NOAA Technical Report NMFS 123. NOAA, NOAA Coastal Services Center, Cahrleston, South Carolina.Google Scholar
  11. Duarte, C. M. 2002. The future of seagrass meadows.Environmental Conservation 29:192–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ebasco Environmental. 1992.Spartina: Distribution, Biology, and Ecology. Final Report, Element A. Submitted to Washington State Department of Ecology, Olympia, Washington.Google Scholar
  13. Eilers, H. P. 1974. Plants, plant communities, net production and tide levels: The ecological biogeography of the Nehalem salt marshes, Tillamook County, Oregon. Ph.D. Dissertation, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.Google Scholar
  14. Emmett, R., R. Llanso, J. Newton, R. Thom, M. Hornberger, C. Morgan, C. Levings, A. Copping, andP. Fishman. 2000. Geographic signatures of North American west coast estuaries.Estuaries 23:765–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Ewing, K. 1982. Plant resposne to environmental variation in the Skagit marsh. Ph.D. Dissertation, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.Google Scholar
  16. Feist, B. E. andC. A. Simenstad. 2000. Expansion rates and recruitment frequency of exotic smooth cordgrass,Spartina alterniflora (Loisel), colonizing unvegetated littoral flats in Willapa Bay, Washignton.Estuaries 23:267–274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Frenkel, R. E., T. Boos, andS. R. Schuller. 1978. Transition Zone Vegetation between Intertidal Marsh and Upland in Oregon and Washington. Prepared for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Department of Geography, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.Google Scholar
  18. Gelfenbaum, G. andG. M. Kaminsky. 2002. Motivation, goals, and status of the Southwest Washington Coastal Erosion Study, p. 17–23.In G. Gelfenbaum and G. M. Kaminsky (eds.), Southwest Washington Coastal Erosion Workshop Report 2000. USGS Open-File Report 02-229. U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California and Washington State Department of Ecology, Olympia, Washington.Google Scholar
  19. Good, J. W. 2000. Summary and current status of Oregon's estuarine ecosystems, p. 33–44.In P. G. Risser (ed.), Oregon State of the Environment Report 2000. Oregon State Division of State Lands, Salem, Oregon.Google Scholar
  20. Grevstad, F., D. Garcia-Rossi, D. Strong, and M. Wecker. 2001. Invasion and biological control ofSpartina altaerniflora in Willapa Bay, Washington. Presented at Ecological Society of America 2001 Annual Meeting, December 9–12, 2001, San Diego, California.Google Scholar
  21. Harrington, Jr., J. A., L. M. B. Harrington, and C. J. Berlin. 1997. ModelingSpartina in Willapa Bay, p. 23–26.In K. Patten (ed.), Second InternationalSpartina Conference Proceedings, March 20–21, 1997. Olympia, Washington.Google Scholar
  22. Harrison, P. G. 1982. Comparative growth ofZostera japonica Aschers, and Graebn. andZ. marina L. under simulated intertidal and subtidal conditions.Aquatic Botany 14:373–379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Harrison, P. G. andR. E. Bigley. 1982. The recent introduction of the seagrassZostera japonica Aschers, and Graebn. to the Pacific coast of North America.Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 39:1642–1648.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hazen, C. J. 1996. The mapping of eelgrass in Willapa Bay, WA and an evaluation of C-CAP mapping guidelines. Master's Thesis, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.Google Scholar
  25. Hedgepeth, J. W. andS. Obrebski. 1981. Willapa Bay: A Historical Perspective and a Rationale for Research. FWS/OBS-81/03. Office of Biological Services, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  26. Huppert, D. D., R. L. Johnson, J. Leahy, andK. Bell. 2003. Interactions between human communities and estuaries in the Pacific Northwest: Trends and implications for management.Estuaries 26:994–1009.Google Scholar
  27. Hutchinson, I. 1982. Vegetation-environment relations in a brackish marsh, Lulu Island, Richmond, B.C.Canadian Journal of Botany 60:452–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hutchinson, I. 1989. Salinity Tolerance of Plants of Estuarine Wetlands and Associated Uplands. Prepared for the Washington State Shorelands and Coastal Zone Management Program: Wetlands Section. Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.Google Scholar
  29. Jay, D. A. andP. Naik. 2002. Separating human and climate impacts on Columbia River hydrology and sediment transport, p. 38–48.In G. Gelfenbaum and G. M. Kaminsky (eds.), Southwest Washington Coastal Erosion Workshop Report 2000. USGS Open-File Report 02-229. U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California and Washington State Department of Ecology. Olympia, Washington.Google Scholar
  30. Jefferson, C. 1975. Plant communities and succession in Oregon coastal salt marshes. Ph.D. Dissertation, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon.Google Scholar
  31. Kaminsky, G. M. 2002. A review of Columbia River dredging: Past practices and recent proposals, p. 53–60.In G. Gelfenbaum G. M. Kaminsky (eds.), Southwest Washington Coastal Erosion Workshop Report 2000. USGS Open-File Report 02-229. U.S. Geological Survey, Menlo Park, California and Washington State Department of Ecology, Olympia, Washington.Google Scholar
  32. Kehoe, D. M. 1982. Sources of Sediment to Grays Harbor Estuary. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District, Seattle, Washington.Google Scholar
  33. Kennish, M. J. 2002. Environmental threast and environmental future of estuaries.Environmental Conservation 29:78–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Komar, P. D. 1998. Beach Processes and Sedimentation, 2nd edition. Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, New Jersey.Google Scholar
  35. Luoma, S. N., W. H. Clements, J. Gerritsen, A. Hatch, P. Jepson, T. Reynoldson, andR. M. Thom. 2001. Separating stressor influences from environmental variability: Eight case studies from aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, p. 179–214.In D. J. Baird and G. A. Burton, Jr. (eds.), Ecological Variability: Separating Natural from Anthropogenic Causes of Ecosystem Impairment. Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC). Pensacola, Florida.Google Scholar
  36. Mitsch, W. J. andJ. G. Gosselink. 2000. Wetlands, 3rd edition. John Wiley and Sons, Inc., New York.Google Scholar
  37. Norris, J. G. andS. Wyllie-Echeverria. 1997. Estimating maximum depth distribution of seagrass using underwater videography, p. 603–610.In Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Remote Sensing for Marine and Coastal Environments, Volume 1. March 17–19, 1997, Orlando, Florida. Environmental Research Institute of Michigan (ERIM), Ann Arbor, Michigan.Google Scholar
  38. Nyman, J. A., R. D. DeLuane, andW. H. Patrick, Jr. 1990. Wetland soil formation in the rapidly subsiding Mississippi River deltaic plain: Mineral and organic matter relationships.Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 31:57–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Patrick, Jr.W. H. andR. D. DeLaune. 1990. Subsidence, accretion, and sea level rise in south San Francisco Bay marshes.Limnology and Oceanography 35:1389–1395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Proctor, C. M., J. C. Garcia, D. V. Galvin, T. Joyner, G. B. Lewis, L. C. Loehr, andA. M. Massa. 1980. An Ecological Characterization of the Pacific Northwest Coastal Region, Volume 1, Conceptual Model. FWS/OBS-79/11. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Biological Services Program, Portland, Oregon.Google Scholar
  41. Reeves, B. 1999. Report to the Legislature: Progress of theSpartina and Purple Loosestrife Eradication and Control Programs (as required by RCW 17.26.015). Washington State Department of Agriculture. Olympia, Washington.Google Scholar
  42. Rooper, C., D. R. Gunderson, andD. A. Armstrong. 2003. Patterns in use of estuarine habitat by juvenile English sole (Pleuronectes vetulus) in four eastern north Pacific estuaries.Estuaries 26:1142–1154.Google Scholar
  43. Sayce, K. 1988. Introduced cordgrassSpartina alterniflora Loisel. in Salt Marshes and Tidelands of Willapa Bay, Washington. FWSI-87058 TS. Prepared for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Willapa National Wildlife Regufe, Ilwaco, Washington.Google Scholar
  44. Sayce, K. andT. F. Mumford, Jr. 1990. Identifying theSpartina species, p. 9–14.In T. F. Mumford, P. Peyton, J. R. Sayce, and S. Harbell (eds.),Spartina Workshop Record, November 14–15, 1990. Washington Sea Grant Program, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.Google Scholar
  45. Schwing, F. B., T. Murphree, andP. M. Green. 2002. The Northern Oscillation Index (NOI): A new climate index for the northeast Pacific.Progress in Oceanography 53:115–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Shalowitz, A. L. 1964. Shore and Sea Boundaries, Volume 2. Interpretation and Use of Coast and Geodetic Survey Data. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  47. Shafer, D. J. 1999. The effects of dock shading on the seagrassHalodule wrightii in Perdido Bay, Alabama.Estuaries 22:936–943.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Shipman, H. 1989. Vertical Land Movements in Coastal Washington: Implications for Relative Sea Level Changes. Shorelands and Coastal Zone Management Program, Washington Department of Ecology, Olympia, Washington.Google Scholar
  49. Short, F. T. andS. Wyllie-Echeverria. 1996. Natural and human-induced disturbance of seagrasses.Environmental Conservation 23:17–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Simenstad, C. A. 1983. The Ecology of Estuarine Channels of the Pacific Northwest Coast: A Community Profile. FWS/OBS-83/05. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, D.C.Google Scholar
  51. Simenstad, C. A. andR. M. Thom. 1995.Spartina alterniflora (smooth cordgrass) as an invasive halophyte in, Pacific Northwest estuaries.Hortus Northwest 6:9–12, 38–40.Google Scholar
  52. Thom, R. M. 1987. The biological importance of Pacific Northwest estuaries.Northwest Environmental Journal 3:21–42.Google Scholar
  53. Thom, R. M. 1990. Spatial and temporal patterns in plant standing stock and primary production in a temperate seagrass system.Botanica Marina 33:497–510.Google Scholar
  54. Thom, R. M. 1992. Accretion rates of low intertidal salt marshes in the Pacific Northwest.Wetlands 12:147–156.Google Scholar
  55. Thom, R. M. 2000. Adaptive management of coastal ecosystem restoation projects.Ecological Engineering 15:365–372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Thom, R. M. andA. B. Borde. 1998. Human intervention in Pacific Northwest coastal ecosystems, p. 5–37.In G. R. McMurray and R. J. Bailey (eds.), Change in Pacific Northwest Coastal Ecosystems Regional Study Workshop. August 13–14, 1996, Troutdale, Oregon. NOAA Coastal Ocean Program Decision Analysis Series No. 11. NOAA Coastal Ocean Office, Silver Spring, Maryland.Google Scholar
  57. Thom, R. M. andL. Hallum. 1991. Long-term Changes in the Areal Extent of Tidal Marshes, Eelgrass Meadows and Kelp Forests of Puget Sound. FRI-UW-9008. Prepared for Region 10, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Fisheries Research Institute, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington.Google Scholar
  58. Thom, R., A. B. Borde, S. Rumrill, D. L. Woodruff, G. D. Williams, J. A. Southard, andS. L. Sargeant. 2003. Factors influencing spatial and annual variability in eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) meadows in Willapa Bay, Washington, and Coos Bay, Oregon, estuaries.Estuaries 26:1117–1129.Google Scholar
  59. Thomas, D. W. 1983. Changes in Columbia River Estuary Habitat Types over the Past Century. Columbia River Estuary Data Development Program, Columbia River Estuary Study Task Force, Astoria, Oregon.Google Scholar
  60. Vivian-Smith, G. 2001. Developing a framework for restoration, p. 39–88.In J. B. Zedler (ed.), Handbook for Restoring Tidal Wetlands. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida.Google Scholar
  61. Weinmann, F., M. Boule, K. Brunner, J. Malek, andV. Yoshino. 1984. Wetland Plants of the Pacific Northwest. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Seattle District, Seattle, Washington.Google Scholar
  62. Wyllie-Echeverria, S. andR. M. Thom. 1994. Managing Seagrass Systems in Western North America: Research Gaps and Needs. Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, Alaska.Google Scholar

Sources of Unpublished Materials

  1. Joint Institute for the Study of Atmosphere and Ocean (Jisao). Box 354235, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-4235. Scholar
  2. University of Washington, Olympic Natural Resources Center (ONRC). P. O. Box 1628, 1455 South Forks Avenue, Forks, Washington 98331.∼coastal/nospartina/.Google Scholar
  3. Wyllie-Echecerria, Sandy. Personal communication. School of Marine Affairs, Box 355685, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98105-6715.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Estuarine Research Federation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy B. Borde
    • 1
  • Ronald M. Thom
    • 1
  • Steven Rumrill
    • 2
  • Lee M. Miller
    • 1
  1. 1.Battelle Marine Sciences LaboratorySequim
  2. 2.South Slough National Estuarine Research ReserveCharleston

Personalised recommendations