Estuaries are diverse and dynamic natural systems that have been insufficiently studied in the Pacific Northwest. To assess areas of vulnerability and accurately predict the impacts of forecasted climate change, baseline hydrology and ecology of estuaries within the Treaty area must be better understood. The Treaty Council is currently studying three estuaries located along the coasts of the Hood Canal and Strait of Juan de Fuca: 1) the Duckabush estuary, 2) the Quilcene estuary and 3) the Snow/Salmon estuary. These estuaries were selected due to their importance as shellfish harvest sites and as habitat for ESA-listed salmon. We are regularly measuring water chemistry and are actively tracking long-term changes in the estuary habitat zones through GIS-based studies.
PNPTC staff have recently completed initial habitat and land-cover delineation of the three target estuaries (Duckabush, Quilcene, and Snow/Salmon) using high-resolution imagery from 2015. Habitat classification allows for comparison to past habitat types to assess changes through time, and can be used in modeling and other research projects. Results from this study are being used to estimate the potential impacts of sea level rise on critical habitat zones in the nearshore environment. See the PNPTC Sea Level Rise Modeling project for more details.
For more information regarding the estuary base mapping habitat delineations, see the summary report: