Protecting & Restoring Long Island's Peconic Bays

Habitats & Wildlife

PEP will build scientific understanding and support decision-making to address threats to habitat and species.

Healthy Ecosystem with Abundant, Diverse Wildlife

The Peconic Estuary is home to some of the most valuable and rare habitats in the world. Physical alterations to the Peconic Estuary and its watershed such as navigational channel dredging, hardening of the shoreline with bulkheads and other erosion control structures, and clearing of land for roads and buildings all harm the habitats and living resources within and around the Estuary. At the headwaters of the Peconic River, the sensitive pine barrens ecosystem protects important drainage areas to the aquifer, which eventually outfall into the main estuary system. These alterations, along with pollution and climate change, have led to the loss and degradation of critical habitats such as the pine barrens, eelgrass beds, marshes, and diadromous fish habitat.

The habitats of the Peconic Estuary face several key threats:

  • Development and other human activities have resulted in habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation, and remaining open space is under increasing development pressure.
  • Dams built on streams flowing into the Peconic Estuary prevent the movement of diadromous fish into freshwater.
  • Invasive species often outcompete native plants and animals, threatening biodiversity and reducing habitat value.
  • The interacting effects of rising seas and lack of sediment threaten to drown tidal wetlands and shoreline habitats, especially if they cannot migrate inland due to natural or manmade barriers.
  • Nitrogen pollution, warmer water temperatures, and human disturbance are contributing to the loss of eelgrass beds within the Peconic Estuary.

Threats to Critical Peconic Habitats

A map of the changes in extent of seagrass cover between 2000 and 2014 in the Peconic Estuary

Current Projects

Peconic Estuary Partnership provides program and project updates!

Search here for PEP Program Updates

Eelgrass Monitoring

cce diver monitoring eelgrass

The decline of eelgrass (Zostera marina L.) in the Peconic Estuary over the last 70 years has contrib­uted to the degradation of the estuary as a whole. The PEP has undertaken several initiatives to advance the protection and management of eelgrass in the Peconic Estuary. Since its inception, the PEP has supported a Long Term Eelgrass Monitoring Program conducted by Cornell Cooperative Exten­sion’s Marine Program. This monitoring program, has focused on collecting data pertaining to the health of the eelgrass beds at various sites throughout the Peconic Estuary. PEP also conducted aerial surveys of eelgrass in 2014 to map and identify changes in the extent of the resource over time. In 2009, an Eelgrass Management Plan was adopted to provide a nesting ground for discussion, theories, and new actions necessary to minimize impacts to eelgrass and to provide a suitable environment for eelgrass to exist.

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