Thursday, April 22, 2010

Spring Monitoring Continues...

Yesterday, three of us were able to get in the water and check out the status of our eelgrass restoration sites around Plum Island and Great Gull Islands.

First stop was Great Gull Island (north side) where we had planted as part of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) grant for eelgrass work in eastern Long Island Sound. I am happy to report that the plants looked great, small, but great (photos above). It is always a little shocking to see the plants for the first time in the spring when they still have the diminutive winter growth habit. The last time we observed these plants was in the fall when they were still quite long and waving in the current. Also, during this time of year there is so much macroalgae that it tends to hide the shoots. The prognosis is VERY good for this site and we plan to begin additional plantings soon.

Second stop was the south side of Great Gull where we wanted to check on a restoration site first planted 4 years ago. This site is amazing and the patches have really spread over the last couple years. Despite the great vis and perfect conditions, we were not able to get in the water here. Once on station, we were greeted by approximately 30 seals. Most were pups, but there were enough agitated adults around to keep us on the boat. We are all too familiar with their breaching and nostril snorting to know that we were not welcome here. We’ll have to wait a little longer to dive here, but I am sure that this site is thriving given it’s performance in the past.

The third stop was Plum Island South (Fort Terry) to look for remains of a test planting we had conducted last fall to see if this site could support grass. Unfortunately, after much searching (storms had removed our buoys) we only found a couple shoots. The wave energy and sand movement are apparently too much for our small patches of plants as those that remained were buried under several inches of sand. This very frustrating given that water quality and light are more than adequate at this site. I am optimistic that we can do some additional work here this summer to measure light levels to see how deep grass might survive here. I’m not holding my breath, but I would like to think that this site could work for us.

On a more positive note, our last dive was on the Plum Island North (Radiator Beach) which was another planting associated with the NFWF project. The crew had visited this site a couple weeks ago so I already knew it was doing well, but I wanted to see it for myself. Plants looked great here in 18-22’ of water (above). The area where we planted a large number of patches 1m OC looked great and we are on schedule to begin spring plantings soon to greatly enlarge this area. One interesting observation was the fact that the deepest plots (20-22’) were showing signs of erosion from high currents (below). This area is too deep to be affected by waves, but it appears that this far off shore the plants are outside of the shadow of the nearby point and rock piles that otherwise slow the currents. I don’t believe the currents are limiting; this is just something we need to take into consideration when planning out the planting.

Next field day is planned for Friday…


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