Posts tagged ‘Plumb Beach’

Field Notes: Horseshoe Crab Monitoring at Plumb Beach

Summer intern Debra Kriensky reports on a recent field expedition

 

Molted shells from young horseshoe crabs (approximately two-to-three years old). Photo © Susan Elbin

Molted shells from young horseshoe crabs (approximately two-to-three years old). Photo © Susan Elbin

On July 23, NYC Audubon staff and interns went out to Plumb Beach in Brooklyn to help horseshoe crab researcher Mark Botton search for baby crabs. Though we couldn’t help but stop to look at the birds—we saw several oystercatchers, plenty of gulls and terns, and a flock of juvenile barn swallows—the tiny, newly hatched horseshoe crabs stole the show.

 

Though the horseshoe crab hatchlings we were looking for were in the same shape as the adult crabs we count and tag during the spawning season, they were considerably more difficult to find. Smaller than a ladybug and the same color as the sand, the crab larvae were practically invisible in the shallow waters of the low tide. Fortunately, we were able to find a few of the baby crabs, which were promptly measured and released. During our search, we also stumbled upon the molted shells of several older horseshoe crabs that likely hatched two or three years ago.

 

In addition to searching for hatchlings, Botton’s team was also there to measure

A newly hatched horseshoe crab © Debra Kriensky

A newly hatched horseshoe crab found in the shallows being held in a shell until it could be measured. Photo © Debra Kriensky

the density of eggs at different depths of sand at several points along the shoreline. Using five-cm and 20-cm cores, the group collected a total of 120 samples of sand to analyze back at the lab. This data can be used to determine where crabs are laying their eggs on the beach, among other things. For example, since birds can only reach eggs close to the surface of the sand, looking at the egg densities in the five-cm core sample can help clarify just how much of this important food resource is available for shorebirds on Plumb Beach.

 

-Debra Kriensky

Natural Strength: Thoughts on the Mayor’s plan to increase the resiliency of New York City’s coastline

Summer intern Darren Klein reports.

 

In 2007, Mayor Bloomberg released PlaNYC, a broad initiative intended to strengthen the economy of New York City, address climate change, prepare for increasing population size, and generally enhance quality of life for New Yorkers. After Hurricane Sandy battered the City last year, PlaNYC was updated to include an outline for improving the resilience of the City as it faces a future in which powerful storms and other extreme weather events are likely to occur with greater frequency. A major component of the latest version of PlaNYC is called the Comprehensive Coastal Protection Plan, which has been designed to strengthen the coastline of the City and prevent the kind of storm surge and flood damage that crippled the City after Sandy.

 

The Comprehensive Coastal Protection Plan calls for the combined use of “hard” and “natural” infrastructural elements. NYC Audubon is strongly supportive of the planned use of natural elements including wetlands, oyster reefs, living shorelines (a combination of reefs, maritime forests, and tidal wetlands), sand dunes, and beach nourishment. In addition to making effective contributions to wave and floodwater attenuation and to shoreline stability, the use of these elements will also provide valuable ecosystem services and create new habitat for the birds and other wildlife of New York City.

 

There are situations, however, where the use of “hard” elements such as sea walls, tide gates, groins, and offshore breakwaters may be more appropriate than natural solutions. It is the view of NYC Audubon that these tools should only be used in coastal areas that are already highly developed. In less-developed areas, hardened elements contribute to the more rapid erosion of sand; as waves strike these relatively smooth, hard surfaces, their energy is reflected back out to sea, pulling sand away from the shore. This can lead to the destabilization of coastal areas, and puts inland areas at greater risk from storm surge and flooding. The Comprehensive Coastal Protection Plan states that solutions will be tailored to match existing patterns of geomorphology and land use, and so it seems that the inappropriate application of hard infrastructure is unlikely.

 

In the coming weeks, NYC Audubon, in collaboration with Audubon New York, will be sending a statement to Mayor Bloomberg, thanking him and expressing support for the incorporation of natural infrastructure in this vision for the future of New York City.

 

You can read more about PlaNYC here.

 

- Darren Klein

 

Hurricane Sandy Impacts: Breezy Point Tip and Plumb Beach

We received another informative update from longtime volunteer and former NYC Audubon board President Ron Bourque, describing the impact Sandy has had on Plumb Beach and Breezy Point Tip.

 

Hello All,

 

Plumb Beach has been affected by the completion of the beach nourishment project that restored the sand that was lost since the 1992 nourishment. I had a conversation with a USACE project manager who told me that the 3/4-mile sand slurry pipeline would be removed in the next few weeks.  Bids for the construction of the rock groins and breakwater should be going out this week. How this part of the project will affect marine life remains to be seen.  Further east, the erosion of the dunes separating Jamaica Bay from the tidal lagoon has greatly altered the landscape.  The drainage channel from the lagoon to the bay remains open for the movement of horseshoe crabs.

 

Driving out to the 222nd Street parking lot at the base of the Breezy Point Tip is a slow trip due to the number of trucks and earth-moving machinery on Rockaway Point Boulevard. Despite some coils of plastic pipe, there was ample room at the parking lot for more than a dozen cars. The sand road to the ocean beach is impassible because of severe erosion, flooding and collapsed Surf Club fencing. The walk on the bay side of the Breezy Point Tip was easy because of the very broad dry sand beach–much of that sand came from wind-eroded dunes. The great storm also cut some water channels that force hikers to take to the rock jetty as a bridge to more dry beach.  The ocean beach front is unrecognizable by anyone familiar with the series of dunes that ran parallel to the beach–they are gone. (See comparison photos of the Breezy Point dunes, below.)

 

The vast sand flat does hold great promise for next year’s arrival of terns and plovers.  The very flatness of this area is an invitation for vehicles to roam far from the beach.  Indeed, I witnessed the incursion of two four-wheeled ATVs on those very sand flats and on the remaining dunes on the bay side.  They were operated by adults–physically adult at least–and had no license plates.  Without a significant increase in NPS staff, the symbolic fencing will not be adequate to prevent incursions into the tern and plover habitat.

 

Best regards to all, Ron