Wildlife surveys and studies support sound Refuge management. Shorebird surveys in Grays Harbor and other flyway locations indicate some populations may be declining. Studies are needed to help understand the causes and identify solutions. Estuaries are also important places to monitor climate change because of their sensitivity to sea level rise. Scientists studying shorebird migration have found it can take birds from two to ten days to migrate from wintering grounds to breeding grounds. Most of the world's populations of western sandpipers move through Grays Harbor estuary, some spending two to five days.
Invasive plants are a serious threat to wildlife and plant communities on many National Wildlife Refuges. At Grays Harbor NWR, the mild climate allows a number of non-native plants to thrive. These plants become invasive when they disrupt native plant communities. The Refuge uses several techniques to control invasive plants.Non-native Spartina cordgrass has spread throughout the Gray's Harbor estuary. This plant grows quickly in salt marshes and mudflats, threatening native plant and invertebrate communities and shorebird feeding habitat. The Refuge works with State agencies and others to survey and control Spartina on the estuary and coastline.Phragmites or common reed is a bamboo-like, invasive plant that has invaded parts of Grays Harbor estuary and over-taken large portions of the low growing salt marsh community. Because Phragmites grows so tall and dense, it prevents shorebirds, waterbirds and waterfowl from utilizing these habitats.
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Most of the world's population of Western Sandpipers move through Grays Harbor estuary, some spending two to five days.