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Aerial photomosaic of the Jamaica Bay shoreline in 2006 Research Reports
Shoreline Changes in Jamaica Bay, Gateway National Recreation Area, 1924–2006: Implications for Shoreline Restoration
By Rebecca Boger, Joseph Essrog, and Mark Christiano
Published: 4 Sep 2015 (online)  •  14 Sep 2015 (in print)
Results and discussion
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Photo of East Pond, Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge, New York.

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Figure 1. East Pond, Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge.

Gateway National Recreation Area (Gateway) is one of the few national park areas in the United States that is located in a highly urbanized area and accessible to a large population by public transportation. The Jamaica Bay estuary, located within Gateway, has a long history of development pressure, with 43% of the 103 miles (165 km) of shoreline occupied by a variety of structures (e.g., bulkheads [seawalls] and riprap; Boger et al. 2012). Despite this intensive development, the bay supports diverse coastal habitats and large numbers of migratory species (fig. 1, above, and fig. 2).

The bay’s islands and fringing salt marshes are rapidly declining and are converting to mudflat and open water. Numerous factors associated with the urban environment are thought to be contributing to the salt-marsh loss, including nutrient enrichment, dredging, sediment depletion, increased tidal ranges, and sea-level rise, among others (Benotti et al. 2007; Hartig et al. 2002; Swanson and Wilson 2008; Wigand et al., in press). Shoreline development likely contributes to marsh loss in Jamaica Bay because the landward migration of marshes, a natural response to sea-level rise, is halted by shoreline structures (e.g., Donnelly and Bertness 2001).

Gateway has identified a more natural shoreline as a goal in the draft General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (GMP/EIS) in order to “maximize ecosystem functions such as habitat for wildlife, connectivity between the bay and upland habitats, and natural processes such as sediment transport and shoreline migration” (NPS 2013, chapter 2, p. 60). Given the extensive development, Gateway proposes the removal of selected hard structures and restoration of natural shoreline features.

Monitoring the status and trends of resources is critical to achieving the goal of creating a more natural shoreline in a highly modified estuary. Of particular interest for this study is the type of land use/land cover (LULC) along the shoreline, the interface between aquatic and terrestrial habitats. Given the extensive modification of natural environments since European colonization of the area in the 1600s, Gateway inherited a legacy of infrastructure and other land use changes that compound the problems park managers face today from environmental pressures such as pollution, sediment depletion, and invasive species. Boger et al. (2012) documented LULC along the shoreline in Jamaica Bay in 2006 and compared it with periods before and after the creation of Gateway in 1972. The classification techniques they developed are being used to help assess the extent of human impacts on the shoreline and ultimately to assist in planning for mitigation projects. The purpose of this article is to expand the historical analysis of the shoreline to 1924 in order to give park managers a longer-term perspective of shoreline changes to assist in the identification and prioritization of suitable sites for restoration and rehabilitation of natural shoreline features.

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This page updated:  13 January 2014

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  Shoreline Changes in Jamaica Bay, Gateway National Recreation Area, 1924–2006: Implications for Shoreline Restoration
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