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200702600 - Historic Changes in Organic Nutrient Sources and Productivity Proxies in the Columbia River Estuary in Relation to Juvenile Salmon Habitat Restoration Priorities

Sponsor: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Budgets: FY07: $100,177 | FY08: $95,896 | FY09: $103,205

Short description: The project sponsors propose to establish the historical trends of organic nutrient sources and productivity proxies in existing sediment cores from the Columbia River Estuary to prioritize habitat restoration opportunities for salmon survival.

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Final Council recommendation (Nov 2006)

Funding category: Expense

Recommended budgets: FY07: $0 | FY08: $0 | FY09: $0


ISRP final recommendation: Not fundable


The initial proposal was fraught with specialized jargon, but the detailed response made it much easier for the ISRP to review this innovative proposal. There is no doubt the work proposed would provide worthwhile research data on the historical changes in the productivity proxies chosen (total carbon, organic carbon, organic nitrogen, delta C13 and delta N15). The investigators are well qualified to do this kind of research and are leaders in their fields. The ISRP asked the proponents to explain how the historical data would relate to current indicators of ecosystem health. The proponent’s response did not specify how their broad geochemical approach would account for important dynamic aspects of food web ecology in the Columbia River estuary. Published research has shown that factors such as living space, temperature, flow, and others, interact with productivity to determine salmon survival. Based on current scientific knowledge, the assumption of a direct relationship between carbon production in the estuary and salmon is not defensible. Comparison of carbon production in the Columbia River estuary with Grays Harbor and Willapa Bay would be an interesting research question. However, extrapolation from the latter two areas to the Columbia River estuary is problematic because the latter two estuaries have had different sorts of histories and perturbations. Historical baselines of the three estuaries are likely not directly comparable. The application of the data to management actions was queried by the ISRP. This aspect remains a weak point and is a primary reason why the project is not fundable. While the proponents have good working relationships with researchers in the estuary, collaboration with LCREP and other restoration-oriented management agencies is not as evident. For example there is no mention of the present project in the LCREP’s proposal 200301100, and in fact this group has a different conceptual model that they are using to plan restoration. Historically, a mosaic of habitats existed in the estuary (including marshes, mudflats, riparian, and others) at different elevations with characteristic vegetation units. It is difficult to see how the core information from the limited number of sites mentioned in the proposal would help plan the restoration of these complexes. The ISRP appreciated the detailed answer to the question of how the core data would be controlled to accurately document historical changes.

State/province recommendation: Not fundable

Review group: OSPIT - Estuary

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)

Comment: Project received a Not Fundable recommendation from ISRP. In keeping with OSPIT recommendations, OSPIT will not prioritize a project not deemed fundable by ISRP.

State/province recommendation: MS: Recommended Action

Review group: MSRT

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)

Comment: It appears that there may be duplication with project number 200301000. If recommended for funding these two projects should be closely coordinated. This project will direct on-the-ground work in the Estuary Province, and therefore should be prioritized and funded there. An analysis of the sediment core samples would allow the analysis of nutrient flow modifications in the estuary due to construction and operation of the hydrosystem.

State/province recommendation: Washington

Review group: Washington list

Recommended budgets: FY07: (n/a) | FY08: (n/a) | FY09: (n/a)

Comment: See Washington guidance