Habitat Improvement

Read about our ongoing habitat improvement work.

Nov 27

King Tides Wash In With Winter Holidays

Posted on November 27, 2023 at 1:40 PM by Gracie DeMeo

by Mary Krauszer

‘Tis the season for high waters on the Puget Sound shoreline, which bring with them the opportunity for action to prevent marine pollution and build resilience on our shores.

King tides - the highest astronomical tides of the year – can exceed 15 feet in elevation on our South Sound shorelines. You may recall the king tide of Dec. 27, 2022, during which a high tide cooccurred with a low-pressure weather system, causing record-breaking water levels at tide stations throughout the South Sound. This winter, you can expect king tides Nov. 28-30, Dec. 15-17, and Jan. 14-16.

Tide washed in to the edge of a sand spit.

High water at the Tacoma DeMoly Sandspit Nature Preserve, Fox Island, during a 2022 king tide.

During king tide events, water can reach high onto our shoreline properties, increasing marine pollution and causing episodic erosion. We can prepare for king tides by making sure all floatable materials - like kayaks, lawn chairs, and landscaping equipment - are moved far enough away from the shoreline so they won't be washed away and become marine trash. We can also protect our properties from exacerbated erosion through conservation management practices. Proper management of upland drainage, paired with enhancement of protective native vegetation, can help mitigate risk from high water events on shorelines.

If you are interested in learning how you can take a proactive approach to protecting your property during king tides and all year round, get in touch with our Shore Friendly program, which assists marine waterfront landowners in stewarding shorelines to help protect their property and the health of Puget Sound. 

You can plan ahead for high waters by tracking predicted king tides on the WA Sea Grant King Tides Calendar.

Tide coming in at the edge of Owen Beach

Tide washing in at Owen Beach, Point Defiance Park

Oct 27

South Prairie Creek Preserve's Orca Recovery Day Story

Posted on October 27, 2023 at 12:49 PM by Gracie DeMeo

Orca Recovery Day Impacts at South Prairie Creek Preserve

The Pierce Conservation District’s Habitat Program participated in the Puget Sound’s annual Orca Recovery Day. 25 amazing volunteers joined us in our efforts to bring awareness and aid to the resident orca population at South Prairie Creek Preserve. Staff and community members came together, boots on the ground, and planted a total of 283 trees. We extend our deepest gratitude to all that joined us at South Prairie Creek Preserve. We could not do it without your help and support! For more information about our efforts: South Prairie Creek Preserve.

Seven children holding trees posing with Executive Director Dana Coggon in an Orca costume.

South Prairie Creek Preserve volunteers posing with Dana Coggon (PCD executive director) and some precious trees!

The Interconnected Cycle

Planting trees provides several benefits to salmon and the surrounding environment. Tree planting not only offers shelter for the several bird species found on site, but also benefits salmon habitat, prevents erosion, adds complexity to the river, and acts as a natural carbon sink. When Chinook fry emerges from their redds, they often find refuge in cold water pools to hide while developing. The overhanging vegetation, such as trees, provides shade and contributes to water cooling. Additionally, macroinvertebrates fall into the water from overhanging vegetation and offer food to both birds and fry. Juvenile Chinook salmon will spend approximately one year in freshwater, then venture off into the ocean for their adult lives. When adult Chinook salmon return to their natal spawning grounds and die, their carcasses give rich nutrients to the soil and aid in tree growth. 

Restoring critical salmon bearing habitat mutually benefits several salmon species as well as our Puget Sound resident orcas. Orcas primarily feed on Chinook salmon, so their continued presence is crucial for the orca population. Both Chinook salmon and orcas are considered endangered and depend on one another for survival. We were all able to make a great contribution at Orca Recovery Day and hope to see you all again next year!

Oct 06

Salmon Slip In to South Prairie Creek Preserve

Posted on October 6, 2023 at 9:31 AM by Gracie DeMeo

Pink salmon are running at South Prairie Creek Preserve! Our Habitat Restoration Manager, Ryan Bird, snapped these pictures last week to show off one of our favorite visitors to the preserve. 

Pink salmon are a species with a two-year life cycle, and in Washington State, the runs occur on odd years. Adult pink salmon swim upstream from the ocean to spawn, typically to the same stream where they hatched. Females will dig shallow depressions in the gravel of the stream bed called “redds”, where they will deposit eggs to be fertilized by males. She will then guard her redd, usually for a few days, until her death. 

A salmon close to spawning
A healthy and active-looking female at the Preserve either guarding a redd or very close to spawning.

A female salmon with white, dead scales, having already spawned
A female seen at the Preserve who has likely already spawned and is near the end of her life. 

When salmon die, they become sustenance for other species such as birds, mammals, and invertebrates. Whether their bodies stay in the stream or are brought into riparian areas by other species, they will decompose and provide vital nutrients to plants and animals residing in the ecosystem.

While normally closed to the public, we're hosting an Orca Recovery Day Event at South Prairie Creek Preserve if you want to see these salmon up close and help restore the habitat they call home. We'll also have a bird walk with a birding expert! We'd love to see you there.