Monday, July 14, 2008

Meadow found in Southold!

This past Friday (July 11th) while scouting for new eelgrass planting sites we found a natural meadow east of Cleaves Point in the north race between Shelter Island and Southold. We were on our way out to recon ongoing restoration sites, east of Shelter Island when I thought it might be interesting to see if there was any grass remaining near the Cleaves Point Condominiums.

Some years ago (maybe 8) Lorne Brousseau and I had swam through the meadow here and observed recreational clammers digging up large patches of grass. We even documented the damage using our video and still camera.

Unfortunately, there was/is no law against this and the damage continued unchecked for years until the meadow was decimated. The last time we were in at this site there was a very sparse patch of grass that was being slowly uprooted by knobbed whelks searching for chowders growing under the grass. This was the last nail in the coffin for this site.

This day the relatively clear water in combination with the bright sun allowed us to see the bottom pretty well and confirm that yes, the meadow was gone.

As we headed east along the bulkhead and past the filled in inlet to the boat basin at the abandoned oyster factory a group of large boulders caught my eye.

If there was any chance to plant grass in the area these would surely provide the protection it needs from man and the forces of nature alike. We approached the area slowly to avoid striking one of the large number of rocks that could be seen as dark patches under the surface. Eventually, we anchored south and east of the rocks and the combination of the SE wind and incoming tide pushed the boat within the rocks.

Kim was the first in the water snorkeling to get a feel for the area before I got on my SCUBA to get some shots of what looked like a great planting site from the surface. Within a minute of being in the water Kim said: “your not gonna believe it….there’s grass here!”

Although I was surprised I was also happy to see that my mental site selection model of where the grass SHOULD be and where it actually WAS matched! Obviously, there was no need to plant grass so we just spent the next half hour exploring the site and documenting it with photos.
This meadow runs east and west between the rock jetties that effectively define the boulder field. Depths range from about ~1m where the grass is almost right up on shore to about 2m seaward of the largest boulder near the edge of the channel.

Lacuna vincta were plentiful and apparently doing a good job of keeping the leaves clean. This is in stark contrast to the grass a short distance across the race at Hay Beach Point, Shelter Island, where there is a considerable epiphyte load.

The largest and healthiest looking parts of this “new” meadow were in the deeper water and in some areas it looked like meadows we see in the Sound except for the Codium growing here.

A look at the nautical chart hints at why this site may be thriving in addition to the fact that it is protected by the boulders. Given the very close proximity to the channel waters just off the deep edge drop down to nearly 60ft. There is no way of getting cooler or clearer water…


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