Natural Features & Ecosystems
Fire Island National Seashore consists of 26 miles (42 km) of Fire Island itself (See Park Map), and includes portions of the adjacent estuary and ocean within its boundaries. The Seashore's William Floyd Estate, on mainland Long Island at Mastic Beach, protects additional habitat as it stretches from the tidal marshes along the Narrow and Moriches bays to the woodlands and grounds around the old Manor House, almost 1½ miles inland and at elevations as high as 15 feet above mean sea level.
While Fire Island is not a uniformly natural barrier island system, a variety of natural features and ecosystems are managed by the National Park Service at Fire Island National Seashore.
National Park Service policy stipulates that natural coastal processes be maintained to the greatest extent possible.
The National Park Service is responsible for critical coastal habitat for many rare and endangered species, as well as migratory corridors for birds, sea turtles and marine mammals. Within its boundaries, the Seashore also protects vital coastal wetlands, essential to water quality, fisheries, and the biological diversity of coastal, nearshore and terrestrial environments.
These resources are valuable economically and environmentally. Fisheries, recreation, navigation, clean water, protection from storm damages—these are a few of the values placed on Fire Island National Seashore's natural features and ecosystems.
However, the chain of barrier islands and sand spits that includes Fire Island is a sand-starved system, dominated by highly dynamic processes and struggling to maintain its integrity in the face of sea-level rise and storms.
Waves, tides, currents, overwash, barrier breaching and relative sea level change are all natural processes that are critical to the formation and evolution of barrier islands, sand dunes, sand flats, lagoons and vegetated wetlands.
To help you better understand the natural resources of Fire Island National Seashore, you may want to learn more about coastal geology:
Ecological Studies of the Sunken Forest, Fire Island National Seashore, New York; 1976 NPS Scientific Monograph No. 7
A series of Science Synthesis Papers was published in 2005 to support the preparation of a General Management Plan for Fire Island National Seashore.
Additional Natural Resources Reports and Technical Reports are also produced by the National Park Service.
Other recent research and publications that address the natural features and ecosystems of Fire Island include:
The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers has been conducting comprehensive research to identify, evaluate and recommend long-term solutions for hurricane and storm damage reduction for homes and businesses within the floodplain extending along 83-miles of ocean and bay shorelines from Fire Island Inlet to Montauk Point. This study area includes the shoreline of Fire Island National Seashore.
NOAA Ocean & Coastal Resource Management:
Did You Know?
Fire Island National Seashore's Biennial Science Conference provides an opportunity to hear about the current research projects taking place in the park. More...