Beach ecosystem assessment
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This page provides a synthesis of the variety of work completed to date to comprehensively describe and compare Puget Sound beach ecosystems. Synthesis is challenging because:
- the number and complexity of data sources and their rate of change
- the wide variety of questions being asked of the data universe using different query methods, with the metrics generated for analysis often difficult to deconstruct into their underlying data.
- scenarios like armoring where multiple data sources differently describe similar complex phenomena, but where the quality of a datum is difficult to investigate, and
- the use of different assessment units for summarizing underlying data
- Beaches account for approximately 50% of Puget Sound shoreline.
History of Beach Assessment
- The ShoreZone Geodatabase provides the original line upon which subsequent data are associated. While polygonal units and segmentation of the shorezone line varies in successive efforts, the common use of the shorezone line has enormous value. The shorezone data set provides a wealth of physical and biological data, based on video and narrative from a helicopter overflight.
- PSNERP developed an initial Puget Sound-wide data set that was used in a set of subsequent analyses:
- Simenstad et al 2011 presents a classification of beaches and identifies 812 Shoreline process units.
- Schlenger et al 2011 aggregates shorlines stressors into process degradation metrics, and describes the spatial distribution of shoreline stressors.
- Cereghino et al 2012, which describes a beach strategy, describing an approach to beach ecosystem management based on process based restoration concepts developed by PSNERP, including 744 shoreline process units which either historically or currently contain bluff-backed beach.
- All these data are available in the Nearshore Geodatabase
- Several other efforts spun off of the PSNERP data, including USGS's Puget Sound Ecosystem Portfolio Model, which extended PSNERP projections of future population growth on shorelines.
- Biological data are general absent in these sediment supply and drift cell oriented analyses developed by PSNERP.
- WDFW as part of the Puget Sound Characterization Project, aggregated PHS and Shorezone data, to generally describe the occurrence of species of interest and habitats among Puget Sound assessment units were based on the union of shorezone units and PSNERP shoreform segments. Because these units are not based on drift cell direction they do not cleanly nest within PSNERP shoreline process units.
- The National Estuary Program recently introduced a surge of cash resources into beach investigations through the Puget Sound Marine and Nearshore Grant Program. This work has resulted in a revision or extension of previous data and concepts.
- In the Feeder Bluff Mapping project, led by WDOE, some of the staff involved in PSNERP revised shoreline classification, adding more detail to bluff-backed beaches by differentiating between different kinds of sediment source. Where possible, historical sources of sediment behind armor were flagged. In addition revised current drift cell boundaries are suggested, along with other revisions of the PSNERP Shoreline Process Unit concept that are yet to be applied.
- The Social Marketing to Reduce Shoreline Armoring project brought shoreline parcel and demographic data into the beach line-work, describing social conditions in beach units, including data associated with parcel ownership and size.
- (Placeholder for boat based LiDAR work)
- Meanwhile, at a county scale, the Shoreline Master Program managed by WDOE and required by state law, has compelled a set of county planning efforts. Each planning effort represents a unique approach to making decisions about shoreline zoning and associated codes. A significant number of shoreline plans has involved ESA, PNNL, Anchor Environmental, often with Coastal Geologic Services as a sub-contractor (leading in part to the Feeder Bluff Mapping mentioned above.