Jamaica Bay Institute

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

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Salt marsh with New York City skyline in background

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Experimental Salt Marsh Restoration Project

To help explain this complex saltmarsh restoration process an interactive animation of the process has been created. Click the image below to begin. [If you are having problems starting the program you may need to download the latest version of Macromedia Flash Player.]

Gateway National Recreation Area is the steward of Jamaica Bay: a natural oasis in the midst of New York City. Its saltmarsh habitats are invaluable to birds, fish and other wildlife. Wetlands are also critical to the health and protection of coastal communities. They improve water quality by filtering pollutants, and are the first defense against storm surge and coastal erosion.

Saltmarsh islands in Jamaica Bay have been deteriorating at an unprecedented rate of 50 acres a year. If this rate of loss continues, marsh islands in Jamaica Bay will vanish by the year 2025. This environmental degradation has primarily resulted from centuries of human-induced alterations to the bay for urban development. They include: dredging of channels, creation of borrow pits, filling in of marshes, and bulkheading the shoreline. These activities have cumulatively affected the natural sediment supply to the bay. In a healthy marsh, sediment is continually replenished, keeping the surface elevation in pace with sea level rise. However, in Jamaica Bay, the marshlands are losing sediment quicker than it is being replaced, resulting in the drowning of marsh grasses and the sinking of marsh islands.

Gateway National Recreation Area is conducting a two acre pilot restoration project at Big Egg Marsh to test whether adding several inches of dredged sediment will replenish the marsh sufficiently to reverse the trend of deterioration. Sediment is applied through a pressurized spray nozzle in thin layers on the marsh surface. This low impact method fills in the depressions, while allowing the remnant grass to spring back and avoid damage.

The site is carefully monitored to evaluate the effectiveness of this restoration method. Results will provide guidance to the National Park Service and other federal and state agencies who are committed to restoring this precious resource to a healthy estuary.

Experience Your America
Last updated: August 12, 2004
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