By Quinn Whitesall, Habitat Restoration Technician, American Littoral Society
The deep freeze that took place in Delaware Bay this month created some of the harshest conditions our oyster reefs have ever experienced. For over a week, solid ice covered portions of the Bay and the shoreline, and in some places the ice was over three feet thick. We wanted to know how the ice and tide would impact our intertidal reefs and one of the best spots to assess these effects was at Veterans Reef located slightly offshore Reeds Beach. Shane, the Delaware Bay Habitat Restoration Coordinator pictured in the photo below, and I, arrived at Reeds Beach where we were greeted by a landscape that was more reminiscent of the treeless Arctic tundra rather than that of the open water of the Delaware Bay. We were shocked that the reef was not visible at all and feared the worst for our oysters and the reef itself. We decided we would need to come back at low tide after the thaw and assess any damage to this very important ecological community.
Once temperatures rose and the ice melted away into memory, I once again took a trip to Veterans Reef to re-assess possible damage from the ice. Overall, the reef structure was intact which further provided evidence on the heightened resiliency of whelk shell when used as a foundation for intertidal reefs and the importance of interstitial space and the shape of the shell, not just for providing habitat or species refugia, but to possibly combat impact of ice with its asymmetrical surface. Condition of the reef and the health of the oyster community appeared to relatively unaffected by the ice and current observations were similar to those of our last visual inspection from the fall. A few reef segments appeared to be unaffected at all.
Out of 23 reef segments at Veterans Reef, only one seemed to have been impacted. Quite a few bags had come loose, were dislodged, and were shifted forward, most likely a result of large ice blocks moving with the tide.
This was easily repairable. The outer reef was completely intact with no shell bag movement most likely because it was never exposed due to depth of water versus depth of ice.
Along some segments of the reef, gapers, dead, open oysters with tissue inside, were spotted. We have identified gapers on the reefs in the past, but none were present during our fall observation. Some oysters, which were more exposed to the ice and located on the outer surface of the whelk foundation, were completely crushed, likely a result of shifting ice. However, oysters that were more sheltered between shell bags were not affected at all. Overall, it would appear that oyster mortality was rather low and intertidal oyster reefs in Delaware Bay can combat and tolerate impacts associated with ice. There will be some loss but that is understandable. This was evident with other sessile reef inhabitants, like the ribbed mussel and barnacle.
Species that were more sheltered by the reef or whelk shell, were not affected, however those same species that were more exposed to the elements, like the thin-shelled ribbed mussel, were crushed by ice movement. Oddly enough, the barnacles faired well and did not seem affected at all regardless of where they were on the reef which again, like the whelk, could be a function of their asymmetrical shape. Another visual assessment will take place this spring, stay tuned!
Last week, American Littoral Society restoration staff, along with project partners Steve Hafner of Stockton University’s Coastal Research Center and biologists Drs. Larry Niles and Joe Smith of LJ Niles Associates, met with permit reviewers from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) for a site visit at the marsh behind Thompsons Beach.
Due to a history of salt hay farming, like many of the marshes in the Delaware Bay, the sites at Thompsons Marsh have not been able to reach an elevation that could support a variety of vegetation and habitat for marsh nesting birds. Marshes also play a major role in keeping our coastlines resilient by absorbing wave energy and protecting surrounding communities from flooding during storm events.
Our team has proposed to dredge the creeks on either side of the project area and re-use the sediment on the adjacent marsh, which would raise the marsh to an elevation that would support other species of vegetation and help maintain protection for surrounding communities. The USACE permit reviewers showed particular interest in this project, wanted to gain better understanding of the ecological benefits, and praised the thoroughness of our pre-restoration scientific research. We are currently in the final permitting stages and hope to begin work by late September.
Come "shell-a-brate" with the American Littoral Society as we build another oyster reef in Delaware Bay. The free event will take place at Thompsons Beach, 163 Thompsons Beach Road, Maurice River Township, Cumberland County,NJ on Saturday, April 8 from 12:30-4:30 p.m.
There will be family fun and food for this happy occasion, but we're also going to do a bit of work. The work will include carrying bags of shell to a site just off the beach.
Saturday’s shell bagging event on the docks of the Maurice River in Port Norris, NJ resulted in a record number of shell bags being produced.
The unseasonably warm, sunny day encouraged 44 volunteers from New Jersey and New York, along with students from the Vineland High School Interact Club, to fill more than 1,000 net bags with shell. Those bags will be used to build an intertidal reef at Thompsons Beach at the Littoral Society’s 3rd Annual Shell-a-bration on April 8.
It took us long into the night to reach our next port. We went from the relatively populated area of Braganza to the dark heart of this coastal region of Viseu. In three trucks, we caravanned through a maze of remnant tropical rainforests, cattle pasture an impenetrable second-growth woodland. Along the rain-slicked red clay road, small and desperate looking towns popped out of nowhere always looking like the past was a better day. The road cut through countless mangrove forests that define this region. We reached Viseu too late to do anything but find a place to stay the night.
A bridge across the many rivers from Braganca to Visiu, Brazil. Photo by Christophe Buiden
It’s hard to imagine the difficulties of people living at latitude 37 degrees north when coming to the equator in northern Brazil. It challenges even the hardiest of biologists. But after three days our team has not only acclimated but accomplished surveys in two separate estuaries.
Ruddy turnstone multiyear flight recorded by a geolocator caught in Maranhoa Brazil.
By Larry Niles, LJ Niles Associates LLC
We leave a cold and dark New Jersey with mixed feelings for our destination to tropical Brazil. It will be warm and sunnyish – though forecasts predict drenching thunderstorms threatening us every day of our trip. We will explore a very new place, the ocean coast of Para, a largely unsurveyed coast known to be a wintering shorebird mecca. At the same time, we will undergo trials experienced by few biologists. Zika is prevalent in Para, but recent cases of malaria are equally alarming. Of course, one must be ever vigilant for food and water pathogens. Last year, I developed food poisoning ending me up in a rural hospital, with a room full of very sick people. On arrival, I wondered what comes next?
A small part of the sprawling city of Sao Jose de Ribamar.
The American Littoral Society needs your help to bag shell for two new intertidal reefs to be built in the Delaware Bay this spring. We have the materials in place, but need some helping hands to fill the bags on Saturday, Jan. 28 & Feb. 25 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Foul weather dates are Sunday, Jan. 29 & Feb. 26. The work will take place at 8779 Berry Ave., Port Norris, NJ.
Google maps: http://ow.ly/gopZ306DRko
The bagged shell will be used at one of the horseshoe crab beach restoration projects along the Delaware Bay. Reefs off those beaches provide calmer waters for horseshoe crab spawning, as well as habitat for juvenile fish and invertebrate species.
The work will take place on the docks of the Maurice River. It will involve cutting and tying bags, filling mesh bags with shells, and stacking the bags. The shell bags will weigh approximately 20 pounds each. The task will be dirty and a bit smelly, so be sure to dress appropriately.
Lunch will be provided for all volunteers.For more information, please contact Quinn Whitesall at Quinn@littoralsociety.org.
Quinn will also be bagging shell on the following Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays (Lunch not provided):
February 1, 2, 7-9, 21-23, 28
March 1, 2, 14-16, 21-23
Bagging will be weather dependent, so please contact Quinn if you plan on attending any of the weekday bagging days.
By Quinn Whitesall, Habitat Restoration Technician, American Littoral Society
On a blustery Saturday morning, fifteen volunteers met Captain Al and the Restoration Team amongst mountains of whelk shell along the Delaware Bay. The goal of 500 shell bags seemed daunting at first, but our crew of volunteers knocked out shell bags at record speed. Volunteers from McGuire-Dix Joint Base and previous reef builders filled the tubes with shells as the kids loaded the truck with completed bags. Truckloads were delivered to the next lot over where 10 empty pallets were waiting. Over half of the ten pallets were completed before we broke for lunch. Volunteers and staff gathered around Captain Al’s truck where cheese pizza from Dino’s awaited them. Captain Al gave a brief talk about the three reefs that have been built already and that these 500 shell bags will go towards the 5,000 bags needed to build two more reefs at Thompsons and Dyers, followed by a thank you for their hard work. As the wind began to pick up, staff and volunteers got back to bagging shells and completing the remaining two pallets, plus a little extra for the next round of shell-bagging. As volunteers finished, they expressed interest in helping to build the reefs come April.
500 bags down, only 4500 bags to go.
You and your family are “whelk-come” to join American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation for our 2nd Annual Veterans Day on the Bay, scheduled for Saturday, November 12 from 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m. at Moores Beach on the Delaware Bayshore.
This Veterans Day event will dedicate the reef built in April, 2016 at the 2nd Annual Shell-A-Bration, during which volunteers braved the elements and helped build the oyster reef at Moores Beach.
The 1st Annual Veterans Day on the Bay took place on November 11, 2015 at South Reeds Beach. The reef was dedicated to all veterans and highlighted veteran involvement in the effort to restore New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore. Event attendees honored their own military veterans by inscribing that special person's name on a shell and placing that shell on “Veterans Reef.”
This year we’d like to continue to show our appreciation and mark the progress we’ve made by dedicating another reef to a specific military branch. The 2nd Annual Veterans Day on the Bay, which will feature: