Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The first dive at the St. Thomas Point

It is always nice to dive on our most successful restoration site, St. Thomas Point in Southold, and we finally got to do that today. This National Fish and Wildlife Foundation funded project is one of our favorites for obvious reasons.

Unfortunately, boat issues have plagued us early this spring and we are a little behind in our normal Long Island Sound rounds. Today we played a little “catch up” and hit a few sites including St. Thomas. Usually, we would have visited this site some time in late April, but this year, May 14th will have to suffice.

As usual, the site looked great. Even though we’ve been working here for nearly 5 years it is still hard to believe that this is a restoration site and all the plants were either planted by us or spread as a result of our work. Every year the meadow looks more like the natural reference meadow located 4 miles to the east at Mulford Point. Today this was most obvious at the eroded inshore edge which looked very similar to what we see at Mulford. Apparently, the noreaster that was hanging around for the last couple of days moved around a lot of sand. It didn’t seem to harm the plants, but the evidence was there in the form of exposed roots, rhizomes and cobble that is normally covered by a few cm of sand.

I have no doubt that some of the shallowest patches could have been lost, but I'm not worried about it when the meadow covers such a large area and is thriving. This is simply the price you pay for working in a high energy environment. Clearly, the benefits far outweigh the risks.

As usual, Lacuna vincta snails were present, along with their donut-shaped egg masses attached to the leaves, but not to the level that I expected. It was actually a little difficult to see the snails at first as most were VERY tiny and apparently had recently recruited onto the blades. Many of these sand-grain-sized snails were hiding near the base of the plants, just above the sheath, or in the branches of the reproductive shoots (flowers). As the season progresses these animals will grow into the 1-1.5mm animals we commonly find here in summer.

Well, we won’t need to come back to St. Thomas any time soon now that we have 120 new pictures for the files. Our next dive here will likely be in mid summer when the plants are much larger, the kelp starts to disappear and the snails are more obvious. It is nice to have at least one restoration site we don't have to worry about!


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