Pilot salt marsh restoration techniques in New York City, USA: managing ecosystem recovery in an ultra-urban coastal context

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Jamie Ong, Christopher Haight, Rebecca Swadek, Novem Auyeung

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Salt marshes are some of New York City’s (NYC) most valuable ecosystems. They are threatened by erosion and rising sea levels. NYC Department of Parks & Recreation (NYC Parks) is piloting innovative techniques to restore these critical ecosystems. NYC, in the northeastern United States (US), has over 8,000,000 human residents, 8,000 hectares of natural areas, and thousands of species of native plants and wildlife. Today, less than 10% of the historic extent of NYC’s salt marsh remains—about 1,600 hectares. To combat this loss, NYC Parks is piloting restoration of eroding coastal wetlands and planning for salt marsh migration. At Alley Creek, Queens, we piloted clean sand placement in the marsh interior and are designing a living shoreline. We will also conduct thin-layer sediment placement at Idlewild, Queens and Four Sparrow, Brooklyn, to increase marsh surface elevation and restore habitat for nesting birds. Finally, we have mapped areas that are likely to be flooded under sea level rise and identified locations throughout NYC to protect and create pathways for marsh migration. With funding from the US Environmental Protection Agency, we will develop monitoring protocols to evaluate the efficacy of these pilot projects and assess the conditions of migration zones. Using SER’s International Standards for the Practice of Ecological Restoration, we will establish target attributes for ecological restoration and conduct annual monitoring to assess their recovery. Successes and lessons learned from these projects have broad application to practitioners conducting salt marsh restoration in ultra-urban coastal areas.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program