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Ecosystems and Habitats in Washington

Washington has a tremendous diversity of ecosystems: marine waters, tidepools, estuaries, rainforests, dry coniferous forests, subalpine and alpine meadows and parklands, shrub-steppe, grasslands, prairies, sand dunes, riparian areas, and a variety of freshwater wetland types. In fact, most of the American West’s major ecosystem types occur within the state, including a pair found nowhere else in the world: the Olympic rainforest and the channeled scablands of the Columbia Plateau.

Ecosystem Topics

  • Ecosystems 101

    Plant ecologists, wildlife biologists, and marine scientists each have their own approach to defining and classifying ecosystems. This section provides information on the major classification systems being used to establish conservation priorities in Washington.

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  • Ecosystem Services

    Healthy, functioning ecosystems provide us with clean water and clean air, which would otherwise require the application of expensive technologies to produce. Ecosystems also provide natural flood control, pollination, natural pest controls, carbon storage to help buffer against climate change, and habitat for fish, wildlife, and plant species.

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  • Conserving Ecosystems and Habitats

    Washington is fortunate to have a number of strong conservation efforts underway and a public that values a healthy environment. These efforts include acquisition of land from willing sellers, habitat restoration projects, purchase of development rights to retain working forests, and other approaches.

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  • Featured Ecosystems

    Explore a few of the most interesting of the nearly 100 ecological systems that occur in Washington state.

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Quick Facts

Washington Natural Heritage Program
Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 47014
Olympia, WA 98504-7014

Contact Information

Phone: (360) 902-1667
Fax: (360) 902-1789
Email: natural_heritage_program@dnr.wa.gov


Founded in: 1977

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