Jamaica Bay is a wetland estuary 18 000 acres in size and its surrounding includes Brooklyn to the west, Rockaway Peninsula to the south, and Queens to the East. The wetland consists of a number of islands, a maze of waterways, two freshwater ponds, and meadowlands. Currently, Jamaica Bay consists of 325 bird species, 100 finfish species and 50 butterfly species receiving protection from Rockaway Peninsula that protects it from the Atlantic Ocean. Migrating waterfowl make a stop in Jamaica Bay, hence a fundamental aspect of the regions ecosystem. Jamaica Bay is host up to 20% of the continent’s population of birds at one point of the migration pattern of the birds as they make a stop in the bay. This phenomenon means there is a great deal of importance for the restoration and maintenance of Jamaica Bay to enable the natural environment to sustain migration. Urbanization has led to various changes in Jamaica Bay due to increased development requirements, high population, high pollution levels, and degradation of the environment. This has affected the ecological ability of Jamaica Bay to meet the natural requirements of the indigenous flora and fauna population translating to its decline while the exotic population has increased due to adaptation and favorable environment.
Environment and Ecology Before the City Development
The environment and ecology in the Jamaica Bay has changed tremendously when compare its state before and after the development of New York City. Before the development of the city, there were 16 000 acres of salt marshes in Jamaica Bay but this has reduced to only 4000 acres. Mudflat habitat was not available at the Jamaica Bay but due to changes in the acreage of salt marsh, it has been increasing overtime. Jamaica Bay had plenty of oysters before the formation of the city, but soon the city development led to increased pollution of the Bay, hence reduction of oysters number. Productivity and use of the Jamaica Bay has been affected by the changing and intensive human actions ever since the 19th century. High level of pollution has affected the quality of water and resulted in the loss of wetlands since raw sewage, and high nitrogen levels are a common phenomenon mainly in times of storms. There are several plant species at Jamaica Bay that have extinct due to the changes in the environmental conditions of the Bay as the result of pollution and soil degradation.
Use by Native Americans
Native Americans used the Jamaica Bay in the generation of oyster beds with a very high production rate of 700, 000 bushels of oysters in a year. The other use of Jamaica Bay by Native Americans was for shell fishing purposes, which has declined due to the increase in the rate of pollution in the area caused by urbanization. The main economic activities that Native Americans made use of Jamaica Bay included fishing, shipping, and transportation purposes. Factories involved in the manufacture of goods, services, were also located in the island, and agricultural cultivation was the other activity Native Americans used Jamaica Bay for.
Changes with Growth in the City
Ecological changes in the Jamaica Bay include the loss of marsh as it continues to be converted to intertidal mudflats. Passing of the Clean Water Act in 1972 has aided in improved protection of the environment. Humans dominate Jamaica Bay due to the urbanization that has taken place. The growth in the city has led to the decline in the dominant families such as Asteraceae and Poaceae, and the rapid spread of non-native species in Jamaica Bay.
Physical changesbecame visible in Jamaica Bay because of urbanization, including an increase in the low tide average from 3 feet to 16 feet, caused by filling of shallows, sediment removal from pits, and channel dredging. Specifically, dredging resulted in a 70% increase in the Bay volume. Freshwater networks have also changed through channelization, bulk heading, shortening, and straightening, hence other physical changes in Jamaica Bay. Changes in Jamaica Bay have also been visible in the form of borrow pits mainly caused by dredging for the purposes of land filling during the process of urbanization. Urbanization has also translated to the hardening of the shoreline in Jamaica Bay through the construction of docks, riprap, and bulkheads. This has translated to absence of estuarine beaches in Jamaica Bay and there is a need for concerted effort for the restoration of the Jamaica Bay shoreline.
Uses of the Bay in 20th and 21st Century
The use of the Jamaica Bay has changed overtime and currently serves different purposes, among them being a wildlife protection and a viewing centre. New Yorkers and travelers visit the Jamaica Bay as a way to catch a glimpse of exotic wildlife in a natural setting. It also forms ground for sporting activities including kayaking, boat riding, biking, hiking, and camping. It also offers opportunities for beach recreation for residence of New York City and other areas. Jamaica Bay also serves for gardening, surfing, golfing, horseback riding, camping, and picnicking purposes, as well as historical site.
Attempts to Restore Natural Environment by NPS, City
High levels of environmental degradation, pollution and need to restorer Jamaica Bay to its former state has led to increased environment restoration activities by various stakeholders, mainly NPS and the city authority. Some of the attempts aimed at the restoration of Jamaica Bay to its former state include the following: attempts are being made to restore the amount of oysters in Jamaica Bay due to the advantages they posses on nursery habitat for marine creatures and water column filtration. Further attempts at restoring the environment include the restoration and maintenance of maritime grassland at Floyd Bennett field, covering an area of 140 acres, by the NPS and NY City Audubon Society. The other attempts at controlling and restoring Jamaica Bay are the proposal for the adoption of nitrogen controls to reduce the levels of nitrogen levels released into the Bay. Other attempts include the improvement in storm water maintenance through ensuring reduced pollution treatment of water in the source. Limits on the use of natural resources at the Bay for development purposes also act as a basis for the restoration and improvement of Jamaica Bay.
Partnership between the city and the federal government has been made to aid in improving accessibility of Jamaica Bay, increase research and augment education, research programs and the implementation of research projects in Jamaica Bay. Development measures of a seamless park by the New York City and the United States have been made as further measures to restore and maintain Jamaica Bay. Plans for the establishment of a science centre aimed at providing institutional facilities for the research on the restoration of Jamaica Bay are the other plans and attempts aimed at the restoration of Jamaica Bay by the city and the federal government. The establishment of philanthropic groups aimed at the goal of restoration of Jamaica Bay is one more measure taken to restore Jamaica Bay.
Are All the Key Species that were Found There Still There?
Some of the key species that were found in Jamaica Bay are still there but there are instances where non-key species have diminished overtime. A decline in the native species in Jamaica Bay has led to the need to improve conservation measures, mainly done by NPS and New York City Audubon Society. The American eel has been declining overtime in Jamaica Bay, as well as the anatropous alewife. A large amount of marine fishes is available in Jamaica Bay due to the favorable geographical location. The population of diamondback terrapin has reduced in Jamaica Bay and for this the stakeholders blame harvesting, as well as degradation and habitat loss. There are a number of reptiles, amphibians, ranging from toads, turtles, snakes, frogs and salamanders, found in Jamaica Bay.
What Invaders, Both Plant and Animal, Have Settled In?
Some of the invader plants and animals that have settled in Jamaica Bay include Littorina littorea, perwinkles and green crab, Carcinus maenus, ascidiaceans, Japanese show crab, Hemigrapsus sanguineus, Chinese mitten crab, Eriocheir sinensis and Rapapna venosa. Other non-native plant species in Jamaica Bay include common reed and purple loosestrife. Non-native species of flora and fauna is crowding out the native species and this is attributed to their high adaptive characteristics. Amphibian non-native species, including snapping turtle, Eastern hognose snake, Eastern milk snake, red back salamander, spotted salamander, Fowler’s toad, and spring peeper, are present in Jamaica Bay. There are some of the Neotropical migrant bird species in Jamaica Bay including willow flycatcher and yellow warbler. There are expectations that savannah sparrow’s population will increase with restoration of Floyd Bennett Field.
From the study, measures have to be taken to ensure the protection of Jamaica Bay as the way to improve the number of indigenous species of flora and fauna. The restoration programs and policies taken by NPS and New York City will aid in the achievement of this goal. Jamaica Bay plays an important role as an ecological and recreation facility for the residents of New York and beyond due to the various functions it plays.