The Northwest Coastal Explorer: Your Guide to the Places, Plants, and Animals of the Pacific Coast

The Northwest Coastal Explorer: Your Guide to the Places, Plants, and Animals of the Pacific Coast

by Robert Steelquist


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604696318
Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 09/21/2016
Pages: 284
Sales rank: 508,139
Product dimensions: 7.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Robert Steelquist is a native Pacific Northwest naturalist, author, photographer and environmental educator. He has led nature walks, backpacking trips, river floats, teacher workshops, and archaeology field schools. He lives in the foothills of the Olympic Mountains, near Blyn, Washington.

Read an Excerpt

Introduction: What Is It About The Ocean?
The ocean’s scale and grandeur enchant us.

The Pacific Ocean is the dominant natural feature of the Pacific Northwest, influencing our maritime climate (12–14 feet of rain each year in the Hoh Rain Forest), the abundance of our forests (giant coast redwoods and Sitka spruce) and rivers (salmon), and forming one of the most productive marine ecosystems on the planet. The coastal regions of northern California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia are also population centers and engines of our economy. We know the ocean is important—after all, that’s why our region is called the Pacific Northwest.

But what happens when we hear the sound of breaking surf through a dark spruce forest? Or catch the unmistakable scent of a beach at low tide? Or the tingle of cool fog droplets on our cheeks and the feel of beach gravel crunching beneath our shoes? Or the sight of an orca whale breaching as we watch through binoculars? Or simply the taste of saltwater? Young or old, something in us clicks. The explorer in us wants to explore. The artist in us wants to admire the scenery. The curiosity in us takes over and the questions come tumbling out. This book aims to answer some of those questions, while provoking many more.

Who can resist playing in the waves?

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest and its magnificent Pacific Coast. Blessed with a moderate climate, our forests, rivers, estuaries, beaches, and rocky shores are available to us year-round, inviting nature encounters that vary from the mild to the wild (rest easy—this book is a guide to the mild end of that spectrum).

We are going to start with the basics. These are your first steps in experiencing and understanding what goes on in our coastal environment. This book is an introduction to some of the most common plants and animals that make the Northwest Coast unlike any other part of the world. You are going to meet and learn about a cast of characters that live here and that you will likely see on a regular basis as you spend more time exploring the scenic and natural wonders of our region. You will also learn about processes—climate, weather, tide, and currents—that make the Pacific Northwest Coast so productive. Along the way (and crucially), you will also learn about some of its conservation challenges and success stories and how you can do your part to protect our precious natural heritage.

The great writer and conservationist John Muir once said, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” In this book we are going to tug on common plants and animals and find out what they are attached to. We are going to start with the things you will almost always see—and see what they tell us about everything else.

Many common animals and plants are important simply because they are abundant. They have survived and thrived because they have adapted to conditions such as geology, climate, or ocean currents—unique evolutionary strategies that give them survival advantages over competitors in this environment. Or they’ve persevered because they are remnant populations isolated in space and time. Common animals and plants play important roles in ecosystems and natural communities, perhaps as a top predator, if an animal, or a dominant forest species, if a tree. They actively play a role in shaping the composition of life and influencing other living species around them. Some, like orca whales, may be in danger because of environmental or human threats. Some, like Spartina (cordgrass), an introduced estuary plant, endanger other species by their aggressive spread. All, in some way or another, are important pieces in the mosaic of living things that call the Pacific Northwest Coast home.

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