Long Island's coastal ecosystems, including seagrass meadows and salt marshes, are vitally important to the people who live and visit here as well as the diverse array of species that depend on these habitats to thrive. Whether you enjoy dining on local seafood, fishing, swimming, boating or just visiting the shore, these ecosystems provide resources and services that keep our waters clean and healthy for people and animals alike. Cornell Cooperative Extension has been working to restore these habitats for over 20 years to ensure that coastal habitat continues to support our fragile and invaluable marine life.
Eelgrass meadows provide essential habitat for many species of finfish and shellfish during part or all stages of life. Due to the structure and protection they provide, eelgrass meadows are the most biodiverse marine habitats in our region. These meadows also help to prevent or lesson erosion from storm events and help control turbidity by slowing currents and settling particulates from the water column. Unfortunately, eelgrass populations have declined dramatically over the past 75 years due to many reasons, and without our help, will not likely make a comeback in the near future.
Cornell’s Eelgrass program has several major objectives:
To track the extent and health of (monitor) existing eelgrass meadows as well as the historic distribution of meadows throughout Long Island.
To conduct proactive restoration at appropriate sites around Long Island.
To develop alternative sources of eelgrass planting propagules including seeds, transplants and nursery grown material.
To develop innovative planting methods to restore eelgrass using both seeds and transplants.
To conduct a limited amount of applied research on eelgrass ecology and restoration.
Cornell's Eelgrass Program has developed an entire website that has become world renowned for information on eelgrass biology, ecology, restoration and importance. Please visit www.SeagrassLI.org and check it out!
Citizens can get involved with eelgrass restoration efforts through our Marine Meadows Program! Folks can help weave eelgrass while learning about the species and its importance. See the Marine Meadows section as well as Citizen Science, or visit www.MarineMeadows.org!
Our coastal habitats, including salt marshes and coastal dunes, provide a buffer between our developed shorelines and our waters, helping to filter pollutants and safeguard our shorelines from erosion. These essential zones also provide critical habitat to shorebirds, fish, and shellfish alike. The dominant species comprising the tidal zone of salt marshes, Spartina alterniflora, is vulnerable to changes in elevation caused by sea level rise, and other threats. Unfortunately these critical ecosystems are declining in our region and therefore restoration projects are crucial to ensure these habitats continue to provide for us and our wildlife for years to come. Coastal dune habitats dominated by beach grass, Ammophila breviligulata, are essential for protection from shoreline erosion from strong storms. CCE has been and is currently involved in several shoreline restoration projects on both the north and south forks of Suffolk County.