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Center for Spatial Information and Research

Management of Coastal Processes and Stresses in Washington State Parks

This project will develop a pilot study exploring the extent to which key ecological and geomorphic components, processes, and stresses are being reflected in the management of various coastal state parks in Washington State, each representing different coastal systems.

First, all the Washington State coastal parks will be classified according to coastal type, using a marine classification decision support system currently being developed by the Center for Spatial Information at Central Washington University. A pilot subset of coastal parks representing different coastal types will be chosen from this classification for closer examination.

Three initial representative sites will be further assessed using a modified inventory approach that has been developed to conduct shoreline inventories and analyses in Washington State (Donoghue et al. 2006; Gabriel et al. 2005). The baseline inventories of abiotic, biological and cultural conditions for each park and its associated drift cell will provide characterizations that identify existing conditions, determine functions and values of shoreline resources, and explore opportunities for conservation and restoration of ecological functions along the park shoreline. These findings will help provide a framework to help evaluate shoreline management policies and regulations within each park.

The policies and practices of 18 Washington State parks representing different coastal landforms and processes will be qualitatively evaluated (Patton 1990) to determine the extent to which are consistent with scientific understanding of geomorphic and biological processes, as embodied in evaluative principles initially developed to assess the sustainable management of sandy barrier coastal systems (Table 1). A review of theories and methodologies in ecology and geomorphology have provided a number of stress concepts pertinent to modelling environmental stress-response, including those related to stress-dependency, frequency-recovery relationships, environmental heterogeneity, spatial hierarchies and linkages, structural-functional response, and temporal change (Gabriel and Kreutzwiser, 2000). Aspects of these stress-response variables have been articulated in terms of three main challenges to coastal management: dynamic stability; spatial integrity; and temporal variability. These in turn form the framework for evaluative principles which may be applied to assess how policies and management practices reflect key biophysical processes and human stresses within a coastal system.

Management policy and practice will be assessed by giving evidence of: 1) conscious acknowledgement (i.e. recognition) of elements of the evaluative principles; 2) implementation of policy consistent with the evaluative principles; 3) existence of policies and practices contrary to the evaluative principles; and 4) total disregard of evaluative principles (Kreutzwiser and Gabriel, 2000). For this evaluation, evidence will be gathered from shoreline inventories, policy, planning and management documents for each park, key informant interviews with park staff, and field observations during site visits. Findings will include a discussion of factors influencing the extent to which the principles of sustainable management are reflected in the policies and practices of the selected parks, as well as management recommendations which have implications for similar coastal park environments.

Related Publications:

Gabriel, A. 2009. Management of coastal processes and stresses in Washington State Parks. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, Riviera Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada, March 22-27, 2009.

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