Black River Vegetation: Changes Through Time of a Unique Western Washington River

The Black River drainage is a low gradient, low elevation system in the south Puget Sound (Figure 1). Its unique geomorphic setting results in an unusual assemblage of Ecological Systems and supports a variety of rare and at risk species and habitats. Although the importance of the Black River and its associated wetlands is evident, there is little knowledge of current and especially historical condition of riparian and wetland vegetation in the Black River watershed. This project is intended to provide insights into the historic conditions along the river and assess the degree of change and degradation in the wetland and riparian conditions in the watershed since the 1850s. Primary objectives are (1) to expand knowledge of the historical and current condition and extent of riparian and wetland vegetation in the Black River watershed and (2) to develop a methodological approach to assess vegetation using General Land Office surveys, aerial photography interpretation and ground-­‐truthing.

Several significant parcels have conservation status in the drainage, some of which are undergoing active management to maintain and/or reestablish native vegetation. These include Black River Unit, Nisqually Wildlife Refuge (US Fish and Wildlife Service), Glacial Heritage Preserve (The Nature Conservancy), Mima Mounds Natural Areas Preserve (WA Department of Natural Resources) and the Black River Habitat Area (WA Department of Fish and Wildlife).