|Swinomish staff deploy sensors to collect data on local water properties. Photo credit: S. Grossman
Long-term and continuous measurement of water properties (e.g., temperature, salinity, pH, dissolved oxygen) is critical to understanding the health of our waters and the species that inhabit them. By measuring these variables in the intertidal and offshore, we can better understand the overall habitability of regional waters as well as the impacts of changing climate and ocean conditions. These measurements reveal the subtle processes that drive habitat change or species shifts and can inform fisheries management actions and research goals.
In 2022, Swinomish Fisheries installed a water property monitoring buoy just south of Kiket Island in Skagit Bay. This region is influenced by freshwater from the Skagit River and seawater from Deception Pass, creating a biologically-diverse and highly dynamic environment that, until now, has not been adequately resolved by existing large-scale climate and ocean models. The continuous dataset derived from this monitoring buoy will fill a significant gap in our understanding of habitat conditions of important shellfish and finfish species in northern Whidbey Basin.
The shallow waters of the intertidal zone are subjected to extreme shifts in conditions through the twice-daily change in the tides. These regions cool and warm much more rapidly than offshore waters and are more susceptible to large-scale climatic events, like the marine heat wave in 2021. Swinomish Fisheries, in collaboration with the Skagit River System Cooperative, has maintained a network of temperature loggers throughout Whidbey and San Juan Basins with the aim of tracking short-term variability and long-term temperature trends. This information is imperative for understanding the regional gradients of ecological stressors experienced in this critical habitat.