Seatuck's work to promote the sustainable management of our valuable waterways and wetlands is collected under the title of The Puleston Project, established in partnership with EDF and in memory of their founding chairman, the legendary Long Island naturalist and environmental advocate, Dennis Puleston.
Our areas of focus:
The coast of Long Island is punctuated by numerous small creeks and rivers draining to three major outlets; the Long Island Sound to the north, Peconic Bay to the east, and the group of bays comprising the South Shore Estuary. In all, there are over 150 creeks and rivers in Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The combined physical, chemical and biological contributions of these small tributaries help drive the ecology of the important, larger estuarine systems.
Coastal tributaries provide important sources of freshwater and nutrients to Long Island's estuaries. Additionally, they provide crucial habitat for a variety of fishes and other wildlife, including diadromous fish species that utilize tributary habitat for distinct portions of their life cycles.
Unfortunately, many of these important tributaries are seriously impaired as a result of human-induced development and land use pressures. Once clean, cool and free flowing, our tributaries now too often carry too many nutrients and chemical toxins in a smaller, warmer volume of water than they once did. Structures such as dams, culverts and dikes redirect flows, change water chemistry and block fish migrations greatly altering the capacity of many of these streams to support native ecosystems.
The populations of native species including river herring and American eel are substantially reduced compared to historical levels, but populations remain in many systems, increasing restoration potential. Similarly, while water quality is degraded, our tributaries are not past the point of no return so long as we employ proactive, sustainable watershed management strategies.
Our tributary-related conservation, research and advocacy efforts include:
Salt marshes are an ecologically and economically important feature of the coastal landscape. The expansive emergent flats, dominated by the salt-tolerant grasses including cord grass (Spartina alterniflora)
and salt hay (Spartina patens)
are important habitat for many resident and migratory birds. The shallow tidal channels and pools provide habitat for prey fish, nursery habitat for sport and commercial species (e.g. Atlantic croaker and blue crab), and help to promote a predator balance that favors clam and oyster populations. Marshes can act as biological filters, sequestering excess nutrients from upland runoff before it reaches the ocean and can also help protect coastal property by absorbing wave energy during storm surges.
Much of Long Islandâ€™s salt marsh has been lost due in part to development and dredging as the island has become more developed. Most of the salt marshes have been physically altered through ditching or other approaches in an effort to control mosquito populations. Additionally, there are less obvious and less easily managed threats to the long-term integrity and existence of Long Island salt marshes including hydrologic alterations, invasive species, and sea-level rise. It will take a comprehensive and innovative approach by environmental managers to ensure that these valuable ecosystems persist. We are partnering with agencies and environmental organizations to help craft and implement such an approach.