Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Planting in the Hamptons...

Yesterday we spent the day in Shinnecock Bay reconing for a large-scale Buoy Deployed Seeding effort we have planned with the Southampton Town Trustees. The forecast called for a passing shower and we were lucky enough drive through it on our way from Southold to Southampton. Once we got the the ramp at Ponquogue Bridge it was only sprinkling and by the time we got in the water the rain had stopped. The sun didn't come out, but at least it wasn't raining...

Our first stop was a site in Tiana Bay to collect a new sediment sample to round out our sediment data for the Eelgrass and Bay Scallop Project funded by the NYSDOS. The previous sample collected last year had some "issues" so we just needed to retake the sample so the analysis could be re-run. While at the site we were pleased to see a very interesting and patchy meadow, growing in mud, with flowers reaching to the surface. Although we didn't have time to investigate in more detail yesterday, we will have to go back and observe this site in more detail as it is different from other SSER meadows we are aware of.

The two goals of our trip were to: 1) locate and characterize an appropriate multi-acre planting site, and 2) to identify a seed donor site and collect samples to determine potential seed yield and timing of seed collection.

After finishing in Tiana, we headed back east under the bridge and anchored in the flats just beyond the inlet and north of the barrier beach. At a meeting a couple weeks ago with the Trustees it was decided that we would focus on a very large flat south of some of the existing grass in the bay in an area that was not used for shellfishing. Once we got out there we realized that this site just happens to be in front of the largest home on the barrier beach so it will be relatively easy to find the future.

Once at the proposed site we started by setting small buoys to generally define the planting area. With these in place, we set out to characterize the site in more detail so that we could base our final decision on the existing conditions. While Kim and Ali collected sediment samples and photographed the bottom, Steve and I walked the perimeter of the area and recorded depth, time and GPS coordinates to characterize depths. With regard to depth, we need to make sure that the site is deep enough to support or buoys. In addition, we also need to determine our BuDS line lengths based on this depth.

In order to find a suitable seed donor site, Kim and Ali observed the natural meadows north of the flats in 7-9 feet of water and at another site near the Coast Guard Station in 7 feet of water. At each site they collected at least 10 reproductive shoots so that spathes, and seeds could be counted. Given that it has been cold this year, the flowers were in early stages of development and we observed stigmas emerging and some pollen being released. This gives us approximately 4 weeks until the first seed release depending on how our water temperatures progress this month.

Once Steve gets the GPS coordinates on an appropriate aerial photo I will be able to present the map to the Trustees for final approval. When this is complete, we hope to mark the site with larger buoys or sapling "whips" so that it will be easily identified in the future. Kim will also be observing the flowers she collected to determine the potential seed yield and give us an idea of the optimal collection window. At this point we are looking at the last week in June as a potential collection/deployment time.

- ChrisP

Monday, June 1, 2009

Hallocks Bay seedlings far!

Today Kim and I took the small Parker out to Hallock Bay to check on the status of our seedlings there. Last year we planted approximately 500,000 seeds in two areas; one in inner north Gidds Bay and one east of the inner channel running north/south in Hallocks. Kim, Steve and Ali had been out to check on the seedlings on April 27th, but we like to check on things monthly, if not more often. At that time they located the densest patches and took pictures and did some quadrat counts to get a general idea of densities before laterals start forming in May.

Today the weather was nearly perfect for observations with clear skies and a light breeze out of the northwest that add only a slight chop to the protected waters of Hallocks. Once in the water, Kim was able to locate the seedlings at the channel site in Hallocks and take a number of good photographs (left and below). Plants here were still small for this time of year given that water temps have been slow to rise this spring. However they all looked even healthier than in April according to Kim who had observed them both times. The densest areas looked especially impressive, even if the plants were only a few inches tall.

Observations in Gidds Bay were similar although the plants (large photo above) were larger given the finer sediment and additional nutrients available . These muddy sites seem to recruit and grow seedlings very well early in the season, but are typically the first areas to lose grass in summer at the water clarity declines, temperatures increase and crab activity rises. This is what we observed in Noyack Creek last summer when we lost all of our seedlings in June. I think conditions in Hallocks are better than in Noyack and we can only hope that this does not happen again.

Now that we have successful seedling establishment, all we can do is sit back and wait for the coming summer. Only time will tell if this planting will be successful. In the coming weeks I hope to work with the Southold Town Trustees to establish a temporary habitat sanctuary at, the channel site minimally so that, if the plants make it through July and into August, we can scale-up the effort and plan for a large-scale Buoy Deployed Seeding (BuDS) here. The fact that we have seeds maturing into August around Fishers Island gives us until that late in the season plant, but we must act quickly if we are to establish the sanctuary...

I hope to report back on the success of these sites.