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Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type

Masters Thesis

Department or Program Affiliation

Environmental Studies

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Flower, Aquila

Second Advisor

Paci-Green, Rebekah

Third Advisor

McPhee-Shaw, Erika E.


Tidal wetlands offer significant ecosystem services, cultural identity, and economic opportunities, but the impact that projected SLR will have on tidal wetlands in the Salish Sea is not known. In this thesis, I examine the exposure, watershed-scale biophysical resilience capacity, and jurisdictional variation in resilience capacity of the Salish Sea’s tidal wetlands to SLR. I quantify exposure, resilience, and jurisdictional variation using existing spatial data and analysis techniques. I employ a framework for biophysical resilience capacity developed by NOAA and NERRA. This study’s results indicate that there is substantial variation in wetlands area by watershed, from 0 km2 to more than 200 km2, but wetlands area is not clustered in space. There is a clear North to South trend of projected SLR (in 2100, RCP 8.5 emission scenario). The Central Salish Sea and Puget Sound subregions have the lowest tidal wetlands resilience capacity; this trend is mirrored in the management complexity. Overall, tidal wetlands in Washington counties have less resilience capacity than in British Columbian regional districts. This study identified that the large wetlands in the Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia watershed have low resilience capacity to high projected SLR, and thus are of greatest concern. There are several watersheds with low wetlands area and high resilience capacity and visa-versa, but there are no watersheds with large wetlands and high resilience capacity. These results provide comparable and digestible information for managers and policymakers to use when allocating resources towards restoration and protection of tidal wetlands in the Salish Sea.




tidal wetland, sea level rise, SLR, marsh, mudflat, Salish Sea, NOAA


Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Tidal wetlands--Salish Sea (B.C. and Wash.); Tidal wetlands--Climatic factors--Salish Sea (B.C. and Wash.); Sea level--Salish Sea (B.C. and Wash.); Marshes--Salish Sea (B.C. and Wash.); Mud flats--Salish Sea (B.C. and Wash.)

Geographic Coverage

Salish Sea (B.C. and Wash.)




masters theses




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