We engage the public in a broad range of habitat restoration activities in their communities, both to improve habitat and to strengthen the bond between people and their coastal environment. Volunteer activities can include planting beach grass; clearing marine debris from a salt marsh; replacing grass lawns with native plant communities; monitoring shellfish in aquaculture tanks; or bagging shell as part of an oyster reef restoration project.
Restoration projects can be very large in scope, like our ten-year project in Florida to replace an invasive plant with native plants; or they can be small, like a day spent removing debris that is smothering a salt marsh. Our present projects focus on:
Oyster Reefs: Oyster reefs were once a thriving habitat for fish and played a keystone role in New Jersey’s estuaries. They provided not only food for people, but filters for the water, homes to small fish, crabs, and sponges, and foraging habitat for larger fish. Today, only Delaware Bay and the Mullica River have any remaining oyster reefs; they are absent from all other State estuaries. We work with students, volunteers, and a host of partners on projects to restore this critical fish habitat to Delaware and Barnegat Bays. This provides a great educational opportunity, reconnecting coastal residents and tourists to the deeper values of these waterbodies.
Living Shorelines: Living Shorelines is an alternative to hard, vertical solutions for erosion control. It employs techniques such as marsh sills and oyster reefs that maintain the gentle shoreline slope, which provides critical habitat for small fish. It also can filter upland runoff. A new concept in New Jersey, we are leading its introduction by educating landowners, potential practitioners, and government regulators. In the early phases of this initiative, we are gearing up to implement demonstration sites that can move forward under a new State permit.
Marine Debris Removal: Jamaica Bay is the most intact remnant of what was once a thriving estuarine ecosystem throughout New York City. To protect valuable wildlife habitat in this highly urbanized estuary, we lead efforts to remove marine debris that threatens the Bay’s dune and intertidal habitats, which includes beaches, mudflats, and marshes that are disappearing at a rate of 44 acres per year. This work engages a complexity of partners including multiple city, state, and federal agencies, grass roots groups, and thousands of volunteers. Together, we remove derelict boats, timbers, tires, and all manner of litter. Afterward, we plant cleaned areas as needed and monitor the results.
Accomplishments through Partnerships
With the help of Restore America’s Estuaries, the NOAA Restoration Center, our members, thousands of volunteers, and numerous other project and funding partners, the Society has completed more than 26 habitat restoration projects since the late 90s. These projects have restored or enhanced more than 224 acres of important coastal and shoreline habitat, including over 13 acres of oyster reefs and clam beds; 20 acres of beach-dune complex; 52 acres of freshwater wetland and pond habitat; and 133 acres of intertidal habitats including flats, salt marshes, and mangroves. We have also removed marine debris from hundreds of miles of shoreline and wetland edges.
Looking to the future
We will continue to restore important coastal habitat in New Jersey and New York City and to engage more volunteers from all walks of life in this work.