Confronting Dynamic Ecosystem Changes in Jamaica Bay, New York

Kathryn Mellander
Gateway National Recreation Area
National Park Service

Delivered at 2003 Boston Harbor Islands Science Symposium.

Jamaica Bay, a 26,000 acre unit of Gateway National Recreation Area in New York City’s eastern boroughs, is changing fast. Jamaica Bay is a precious natural resource with a rich cultural history preserved in an urban national park. It is home to many species of migratory and nesting birds (including several endangered species), a breeding ground for the diamondback terrapin, a nursery for fishes, and a haven for urban dwellers who need to get away from the stresses of city life. Its salt marsh wetlands are an increasingly rare and precious resource, important as habitat but also to filter and store the quantities of pollutants entering the bay’s ecosystem.

Jamaica Bay’s salt marsh habitat is disappearing at an alarming rate (approximately 50 acres per year are being lost). Natural and manmade processes operating in and around the Bay create an ecosystem under constant and massive stress. Natural factors and manmade activities combine in ways we don’t yet understand to affect the Bay’s natural systems.

There are presently many research projects in the Bay by academic and public agency groups, in efforts to determine the major factors in changes in the Bay ecosystem, particularly the loss of salt marsh wetlands, and how environmental factors combine with each other to drive ecosystem changes. In addition, restoration projects are underway in some of the marsh areas to determine successful techniques of stabilizing the existing marshes.

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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