Jamaica Bay Institute

National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, Gateway National Recreation Area

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  Priority Research Needs
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Quantify Biological Impacts of Recreation Year-round on Ocean Beaches Parkwide

Develop a Habitat Plan for the Park's Flora and Fauna: A Vision of What Should Be

Develop an Inventory and Management Plan for Horseshoe Crabs Parkwide

Assess Visitor Use Impacts at Key Ecological Sites Parkwide

Survey of Raccoons and Other Problem Mammals, Native and Alien

Chemical Contaminants in Sediments of Jamaica Bay: Comparing Damage with Pre-Settlement Conditions

Bathymetric Survey of Jamaica Bay and other bays parkwide: Closing a Gap in the Saltmarsh Loss Model

Biological Effects of Contaminents on Marine Invertebrates Parkwide

Assess Ecological Effects of Contaminants and Efficacy of Recontouring Jamaica Bay (FY05-07)

Control Invasive Plants to Restore Native Maritime Vegetation Communities

Mitigate Invasive Vines, Trees, and Sedge to Restore Native Maritime Vegetation

Intensive Investigation and Monitoring of Saltmarsh Erosion in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

 

Quantify Biological Impacts of Recreation Year-round on Ocean Beaches Parkwide

A year-round survey of ocean beaches in all three administrative units of Gateway NRA will be done to quantify visitor impacts on birds, invertebrates, and plants. This will build upon the winter beach survey that was done at Breezy Point JBU and the summer beach survey that was done at Plum Island SHU. Initial information suggests that recreational uses of the park’s beaches is, at some sites, contributing to the loss of native species.(top)


 

Develop a Habitat Plan for the Park's Flora and Fauna: A Vision of What Should Be

This is a two-year project to synthesize existing ecological data and perspectives into a vision of what the natural resources of Gateway NRA could regain through long-term protection and restoration. The perspective is parkwide, and includes the full spectrum of terrestrial and aquatic habitats in and around the park’s estuaries and barrier islands. NPS staff’s habituation to existing degraded environmental and ecological conditions makes it all too easy to forget, or fail to realize, what the park’s ecological potential is.
Permanent staff of the park’s Division Natural Resources will review the scientific literature. They also will meet frequently with rangers from each of the park’s three administrative Units to draw upon their experiences. Project information will be analyzed in and presented through a predictive, visual model within the park’s Geographic Information System (GIS).

The process of updating the park’s General Management Plan will benefit by having the proposed Habitat Management Plan as a referent for the park’s ecological potential. The Habitat Plan will focus on the plant communities and the animal communities that existed in maritime New York before urban development had an impact. The process will be more than a recreation of the past, because it also will consider the role that the park has today in providing temporary refuge for migratory animals as well as permanent refuge for the more-sedentary species. A vision of the ecological, scenic, and recreational potential on a landscape rich in natural values also will facilitate planning of how to restore Jamaica Bay using damage-assessment funds. (top)


Develop an Inventory and Management Plan for Horseshoe Crabs Parkwide

There is a vital connection, which is well documented, between Horseshoe Crab eggs and the migratory shorebird diet. Shuster(1999)has documented that these migrating birds need to replenish up to half their body weight in order for their continued migration Northward. This is accomplished by ingesting mainly Horseshoe Crab eggs, which tend to be rich in dietary oil.
Migratory shorebirds in the New York/New Jersey Harbor area use these eggs as a dietary resource, and with the current decline in spawning populations of Horseshoe Crabs, this could adversely impact shorebird populations here. It has been observed that the NY/NJ Harbor area is a "flyway" for migratory bird species. The latest documented evidence shows that there is a steady decline in Horseshoe Crabs, and therefore their eggs, which is serious enough to impact not only their own population numbers, but also the numbers of migratory shorebirds who rely upon their eggs to maintain their body weight, fishermen, whose main use is for bait (eel, conch), and the biomedical industry who utilize Horseshoe Crab blood for medical sterilization. To further our understanding of the Horseshoe Crab, whose range spreads from Maine to the Yucatan Peninsula, inventory and management data need to be collected and added to the data from recent years. Although they are scarce, surveys have shown that there is currently a 74% decline in Horseshoe Crab abundance in Delaware Bay (ASMFC 1998). On Cape Cod, MA, a decline in spawning activity in the Crabs has shown that one local population has declined by 95% (Widener and Barlow 1999).

It is also important to document the linkage between Horseshoe Crabs and currently observed poaching activities that occur in Jamaica Bay, NY, Great Kills, NY, and Sandy Hook, NJ. In addition, this project will evaluate the harvest pressures placed on spawning horseshoe crabs at Gateway, to determine if illegal harvesting is occurring within our boundaries. (top)


Assess Visitor Use Impacts at Key Ecological Sites Parkwide

The Division Natural Resources will supervise a study to identify and evaluate the effects that intense visitor-use is having on the quality of Park resources. The focus will be on ecological sites where visitation is most intense, such as the beaches at Sandy Hook and Breezy Point, or where the ecology is especially fragile, such as the Holly Forest at Sandy Hook and the peat outcrop/beach/cliff catena at Great Kills (site of proposed daily field visits by school children). Of special concern are the fringe marshes by the horse-riding academy at Bergen Beach (JBU), and the marshes at Hamilton Beach (JBU), Great Kills (SIU), Horseshoe Cove (SHU), and Spermacetti Cove (SHU).
The study will describe the current condition of these natural areas, the associated visitor activities, and the sensitivity of the flora and fauna to disturbance. The purpose of the study is to provide recommendations on how to mitigate impacts and restore damaged resources. Determination of the appropriate visitor carrying capacity for the different ecological sites and/or visitor use zones within the Park will be made. Suggestions for specific site uses of boardwalks, fences, signs, trails, types of use, and visitor numbers will be made with regard to time and place. The report will serve as a reference guide for future development and management proposals. (top)


Survey of Raccoons and Other Problem Mammals, Native and Alien

Abstract: Nearly 80% of the native mammalian fauna has been lost from Gateway NRA. Among the two dozen remaining mammalian species, several are becoming abundant to the point of being a nuisance and hazard to visitors as well as a threat to the survival of rare and listed species. This study will survey the mammalian fauna and make recommendations on whether and how to control nuisance species, and to provide the data that may be needed for environmental assessments. Raccoons (Procyon lotor) will be a focus, because they have entered new areas and become very abundant throughout the park in recent years. While raccoons are a native species to be preserved in the park, they also are a nuisance to humans in residential areas and a threat to the survival of other native animal populations within the park.
A parkwide inventory of problem mammals is proposed in the Gateway NRA for planning intervention to restore and preserve the native fauna and to protect property and human safety. The survey will update and expand knowledge of occurrence, distribution, and abundance of indigenous and exotic mammal species in Gateway NRA. Focal animals are raccoons, opossums, rats, dogs,and cats. The survey will contribute to-- (1) Planning to minimize property destruction, disease risk, and injury. (2) Planning reintroduction of extirpated mammal species. (3) Planning the elimination of feral mammal species. (4) Planning management of native and feral mammals that are hindering efforts to protect and rebuild viable populations of rare or threatened species, such as Diamondback Terrapins and Piping Plovers. (5) Beginning a parkwide museum reference collection, useful for education and research. These activities will aid in the preservation and restoration of biodiversity at Gateway NRA. (GMP proj# GATE-N-025.000) (top)



 

Chemical Contaminants in Sediments of Jamaica Bay: Comparing Damage with Pre-Settlement Conditions

Abstract: Chemical contaminants in the sediments and in the invertebrates of Jamaica Bay,NY, will be sampled, analyzed, and mapped in GIS to provide a preliminary assessment of damage. Core samples from the original salt marshes (now buried under land-fill) will provide comparisons with present-day conditions. The results will be compared with other data in the scientific literature, to assess how the park’s estuarine ecosystem is affected. This is Gateway NRA’s highest-priority natural resources project, because these results are needed to justify funds for a comprehensive assessment of ecological damages in Jamaica Bay.
Urban refuse, industrial waste, and sewage in Jamaica Bay have left large quantities of chemical contaminants in the sediments. Contaminant distributions in time and place are poorly known, despite NY State and EPA data in the STORET and EMAP databases. Hazardous-waste landfills are now closed and soon will be sealed to contain the leachates. In preparing an assessment of damages to the Jamaica Bay ecosystem, answers are needed on how best to deal with the contaminants that already are dispersed among the sediments. Should the be removed, capped in situ, or left undisturbed? The latest GIS orthophotos and maps of the bay bottom and tidal-water exchange will be used to plan stratified random sampling to determine where to collect sediment cores. Samples will be removed at intervals along the length of each hand-drilled core. Where possible, such as in salt marshes, cores will extend to depths of several centuries. Samples will be preserved and promptly analyzed, following standard procedures. This study is based on the Gateway NRA General Management Plan (project # GATE-N-140.003). (top)


 

Bathymetric Survey of Jamaica Bay and other bays parkwide: Closing a Gap in the Saltmarsh Loss Model

Extensive research is underway at Gateway NRA to determine physical and other processes causing the rapid loss of the saltmarsh resources of Jamaica Bay and other areas parkwide. This research includes sediment budget analysis, time series analysis of salt marsh changes over time, and marsh elevation studies, among others.
Good bathymetric data for the saltmarsh areas of the park are fundamental for this research. Changes in bathymetry are recognized as a major factor in the status of the saltmarsh ecosystems (Blue Ribbon Panel Report,2001), but since NOAA surveys in the 1950’s there has been little specific and comprehensive information on what is occurring in benthic and deep water areas.

Recent collection of high-resolution bathymetry and backscatter data in a portion of Jamaica Bay using multi-beam echo soundings suggests this may be a promising tool to measure changes in bathymetry (Flood, 2004).

Based on results of this trial and the importance of accurate and current bathymetric information to understanding saltmarsh loss, it is proposed that a more complete high-resolution bathymetric survey be acquired for all of Jamaica Bay, and selected areas of Sandy Hook and Great Kills Park, using the SIMRAD EM3000 multibeam bathymetric system for waters over 6 feet in depth. The proposed survey would show the dimensions and features of the channels as well as the edges of the shallow banks, with a data density of approximately one square meter. Acquisition of bathymetry in shallower areas would use a small boat, single-beam echo sounding time.

The project will be conducted by a university or agency cooperator who will perform the survey, conduct accuracy assessments on project results, and communicate the information to Gateway NRA in a digital format usable within the park’s geographic information system. (top)


Biological Effects of Contaminents on Marine Invertebrates Parkwide

An investigation of marine invertebrates will be done throughout Gateway NRA to identify species and their relative abundance for a basic description of biodiversity. Chemical contaminants in invertebrate tissues will be identified, quantified, and further studied in controlled experiments with living invertebrates in aquaria to elucidate the biological effects that these contaminants have on reproduction and survival in key species. This project will address the critical issue raised by the 1991 NOAA report that ranked the waters around Gateway NRA as Number One among 200 coastal sites nationwide in the potential for biological effects from chemical contaminants. Better documentation of the hazards and effects will help to inform specialists and the general public, and will contribute to the public decisions and environmental enforcement that ultimately will result in improved water quality in the estuaries of Gateway NRA and in estuarine ecosystems nationwide.
Invertebrate animals in Gateway NRA waters are appropriate subjects for an experimental approach to demonstrating the effects of contaminants on the Park’s fauna, because invertebrates have a short life cycle and because they are important foods for many other kinds of animals. Invertebrate tissues will be analyzed to identify and quantify chemical contaminants, particularly polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and heavy metals. Selected marine invertebrate "key" species will be maintained in aquaria in the Water Quality Laboratory in the Division Natural Resources, where they will be dosed with various chemical contaminants to observe changes in behavior, physiology, morphology, and survival. (top)


Assess Ecological Effects of Contaminants and Efficacy of Recontouring Jamaica Bay (FY05-07)

Existing data (published and unpublished) about chemical contaminants in estuarine waters and sediments will be reviewed and evaluated for biological and ecological effects. Gateway NRA’s Division Natural Resources is refining a test of biological effects, by using amphipod reproductive success over several generations to provide a more-accurate monitoring tool. Results will be evaluated in the context of food webs, pathology, and ecosystem processes. The objective is to assess impairment, so that informed decisions can be made about the management of Jamaica Bay and other estuarine waters within Gateway NRA. (top)


Control Invasive Plants to Restore Native Maritime Vegetation Communities

Much of the land of Gateway National Recreation Area is presently dominated by invasive plants, alien species or genotypes, which typically form near-monocultures and suppress or prevent the growth of native plants. These invasive monocultures are spreading, and overwhelming ever-larger areas of the native plant communities that would otherwise be present under the existing physical environmental conditions of the affected sites. The goal of this project is to remove, or at least suppress the growth of alien invasives in four small, selected areas throughout the park, and restore the native plant communities at these sites. Native plants appropriate to the sites will be grown, insofar as possible, from local seed sources, at the park greenhouse/nursery, then planted into the sites once the invasive plants have been removed. As necessary, the park-grown plants may be supplemented with plants purchased from local commercial nurseries that produce native plants. Although the restored areas will be small relative to the total park acreage currently dominated by invasive plants, they will greatly increase the biodiversity of these small patches, and will serve as examples to show visitors, via signage and interpretation, the native maritime plant communities that were historically present in the Greater New York City Region. (top)


 

Mitigate Invasive Vines, Trees, and Sedge to Restore Native Maritime Vegetation

Much of the land of Gateway National Recreation Area is presently covered with near-monocultures of invasive plants (alien species or alien genotypes) which suppress or prevent the growth of native plants. Many of these invasive monocultures are spreading, overwhelming ever-larger areas of the existing native plant communities and preventing any future development of the vegetation that would otherwise be present under the existing physical environmental conditions. The goal of this project is to eliminate, insofar as possible, the alien invasive plants in five small, selected sites within the park, and restore native plant communities at these sites. Those native plants remaining after the removal of the invasives will be protected. To facilitate recovery of the native-plant communities, and to hasten ecological succession toward regional climatic-climax communities, appropriate native species will be planted to fill gaps in the residual vegetation. Although the restored areas will be small relative to he total park area currently dominated by invasive plants, the restorations will greatly increase the biodiversity at these sites. They also will serve as examples to show visitors the native plant communities that were historically present along coastal New York City. (top)


Intensive Investigation and Monitoring of Saltmarsh Erosion in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

Work with Blue Ribbon Panel of experts to set up a protocol and action plan for monitoring and stabilizing erosion of central marshes of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Set up an inventory by GIS mapping all central and perimeter saltmarshes in Jamaica Bay. Conduct workshops and routinely monitor all potential erosion events over a three year period (i.e. weather, tides, Canada & Snow Goose foraging habits, etc.). Consult with panel experts, DEC, ACOE, community leaders and local universities to develop action plan to stabilize, mitigate and/or enhance saltmarshes at most serious erosion sites in Jamaica Bay. Evaluate program effectiveness. (top)

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Last updated: August 12, 2004
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