Eutrophication of water bodies occurs when high levels of nutrients fuel high rates of primary production and accumulation of algal biomass, either as macroalgae or phytoplankton. Some ecosystems are naturally eutrophic, but in others human activity causes ecosystems to undergo transformations into a eutrophic state. This is termed cultural eutrophication, and is the primary concern in evaluating the status of marine waters of Puget Sound.
Source: Puget Sound Science Review
Impacts of low oxygen on Puget Sound aquatic life (infographic)
Chronic stress from lack of oxygen can make aquatic organisms more vulnerable to disease, pollution, or predation. Low oxygen can also result in reduced habitat for some species. Aquatic species may escape, acclimate, adapt, or die with exposure.
Sources of nitrogen in Puget Sound (infographic)
Nitrogen is a chemical element that is essential for the growth of all life on earth. But too much nitrogen can lead to low dissolved oxygen and other problems such as toxic algal blooms that can harm or kill aquatic organisms.
When are waters considered hypoxic?
The search goes on for a set of definitions and thresholds to represent low-oxygen concentrations that threaten various aquatic creatures. Over the years, ecologists have relocated, reshaped and revised the word “hypoxia” to describe these conditions. In part four of our series "Oxygen for life" we look at how scientists determine whether oxygen levels are low enough to be considered harmful to sea life.
How crabs respond to low oxygen in Hood Canal
As observed in Hood Canal, low-oxygen conditions can upend the lives of Dungeness crabs trying to stay alive. Levels of dissolved oxygen can alter predator-prey relationships for a multitude of species, affecting populations throughout the food web. Part two of our series "Oxygen for life" examines a crab case study.
Warmer waters will mean less oxygen for species
In time, lower dissolved oxygen worsened by climate change could increase the abundance of rare species in Puget Sound while putting populations of more common species into a tailspin. Part three of our series "Oxygen for life" looks at how warmer waters will gradually make it harder for many sea creatures to breathe.
Understanding the causes of low oxygen in Puget Sound
How do excess nutrients trigger low oxygen conditions in Puget Sound and what do those conditions mean for the species that live here?
The Salish Sea Model
The Salish Sea Model is a computer model used to predict spatial and temporal patterns related to water circulation in the Salish Sea. It was developed at the United States Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory with funding from the Environmental Protection Agency. It is housed at the University of Washington Center for Urban Waters which is affiliated with the Encyclopedia of Puget Sound.
Salish Sea Model looks at climate impacts on the nearshore
A 2019 paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans outlines how the Salish Sea Model describes the impacts of climate change, sea level rise and nutrient loads on the region's nearshore environment.
Does Puget Sound need a diet? Concerns grow over nutrients
As the region's population grows, scientists say we can expect to see increasing amounts of nitrogen and other elements flowing into Puget Sound. Known as “nutrients” these elements are naturally occurring and even necessary for life, but officials worry that nutrients from wastewater and other human sources are tipping the balance. That could mean big problems for fish and other marine life, gradually depleting the water of oxygen and altering the food web.
Sewage treatment plant in Olympia a leader in nitrogen removal
A regional sewage-treatment system in Thurston County has helped contain low-oxygen problems in Budd Inlet as the population continues to grow. The system cleans up some of the effluent for replenishing groundwater supplies.
Dead plankton leave clues to a food-web mystery
High amounts of elements such as nitrogen can cause blooms of phytoplankton that sometimes trigger perturbations throughout the food web. This occurs most often in the spring and summer after the long, dark, cloudy days of winter begin to fade.
Puget Sound circulation triggers low-oxygen conditions at different times and in different places
The amount of oxygen in the Salish Sea is dependent on water circulation which distributes chemical elements such as nitrogen through the system.
How the state assesses low oxygen in Puget Sound
Under the federal Clean Water Act, states are required to assess the quality of their surface waters and compile a list of polluted water bodies. The law mandates cleanup plans to address pollution and other water-quality problems. This article describes how this process works in Washington state for dissolved oxygen.
Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program
The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP) is an independent program established by state and federal statute to monitor environmental conditions in Puget Sound.
2015 Puget Sound Marine Waters Overview
The Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program released its fifth annual Marine Waters Overview this week. The report provides an assessment of marine conditions for the year 2015 and includes updates on water quality as well as status reports for select plankton, seabirds, fish and marine mammals.
Transfer of nutrients in the ecosystem
Decaying organic matter plays an important role in marine ecosystems.
Cleaning up Lake Washington
Lake Washington was heavily contaminated by untreated sewage until extensive pollution controls by the city of Seattle.
A study of the nutrients in the main basin of Puget Sound
This study compared recent and historical data to determine the presence of any significant changes in nutrient and oxygen concentrations subsequent to METRO discharge, examined seasonal cycles in water properties, and examined the flux of nutrients within the study area.
Dissolved oxygen and hypoxia in Puget Sound
Hypoxia, defined as dissolved oxygen (DO) concentrations less than 2 mg / L, has become widespread throughout estuaries and semi-enclosed seas throughout the world (Diaz 2001).
Review finds minimal evidence for human impacts on Hood Canal hypoxia
An independent review conducted by the Puget Sound Institute (PSI) is featured in findings by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Washington State Department of Ecology that there is currently “no compelling evidence” that humans are the cause for recent trends in declines in dissolved oxygen in Hood Canal.