Ecosystem Targets and Supporting Indicators

Coastal Habitat Extent

Restore 350 acres of coastal habitat by 2020 and a total of 3,000 acres by 2035 from a 2014 baseline.

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Progress (2020 Interim goal — 350 acres restored)

This interim target tracked the progress in completing land-based habitat restoration projects (including tidal wetlands) in LISS’s priority coastal habitats. It excluded eelgrass extent and river miles restored. The target was reached in 2018.

Progress (2035 goal — 1,000 acres restored)

This final target tracks the progress in completing land-based habitat restoration projects (including tidal wetlands) in LISS’s priority coastal habitats. It excludes eelgrass extent and river miles restored.

Progress (2035 goal — 3,000 acres restored)

This final target combines the acreage restored in land-based habitat restoration projects with the extent of eelgrass, also measured in acres. Eelgrass is an underwater grass that grows near the shore and is monitored by an aerial survey conducted every three-five years.

Habitat Acres Restored (excluding eelgrass extent)
YearAcres RestoredCumulative Acreage
199839.239.2
1999108.0147.2
2000180.1327.3
200123.7351.0
2002135.2486.2
200327.0513.2
200432.5545.7
200576.6622.3
200657.5679.8
20077.6687.4
200816.1703.5
2009156.8860.3
2010204.31,064.6
201148.61,113.2
2012291.31,404.5
201334.71,439.2
2014207.01,646.2
2015108.71,754.9
201672.31,827.2
2017137.21,964.3
201837.32,001.6
201954.12055.72
Coastal Habitat Acres Restored
YearAcres RestoredCumulative AcreagePercent to interim 2020 Goal (350 acres)Percent to 2035 Goal (1,000 acres)
2014 (baseline)0000
2015108.7108.731.110.87
201672.318151.718.10
2017137.2318.290.931.82
201837.3355.5100.135.55
201954.1409.611740.96
Percent to 2035 goal (combines land-based restoration with eelgrass extent)
Baseline year (acres)Net acreage from baseline to the most recent year surveyed
Habitat acres restored0 (year 2014)410 (through 2019)
Eelgrass extent (from surveys conducted every 3-5 years)0 (year 2009)-371 (through 2017)
Combined net acreage / percent to goal39 acres/ 0% to goal (rounded to a whole number)

Status and Trends

In 2018, the program met the interim target of restoring 350 acres of coastal habitat by the beginning of 2020 (2015-2019). The LISS Habitat Restoration Initiative is now pursuing two more Coastal Habitat goals through 2035:

  • Coastal Habitat Restoration Projects: This target builds on the interim target to restore a total of 1,000 coastal acres by the beginning of 2035 from the 2014 baseline. An average of 50 acres a year is needed to meet the target. The program is currently averaging 82 acres a year. This target tracks the efforts of LISS’s partners to restore coastal habitats as measured in acres. It includes restoration projects in all of LISS’s land-based priority habitats (including tidal wetlands). It excludes eelgrass, and underwater grass that grows near the shore, and miles of rivers and streams restored for fish passage.
  • Coastal Habitat Restoration Projects plus Eelgrass Extent: This target seeks to restore 3,000 acres of habitat by combining the coastal habitat restoration projects with eelgrass restoration. Unlike land-based restoration, eelgrass restoration does not involve hands-on projects but is expected to occur, according to scientific models, through improvements in water quality. Measuring eelgrass is conducted through an aerial survey. According to the last survey, conducted in 2017, eelgrass declined by 362 acres compared to the 2009 baseline. As a result, only 39 acres of total coastal habitat extent has increased since the baseline, which is well below the amount needed to reach the 3,000-acre target.

In addition to the Coastal Habitat extent goals, LISS has established specific ecosystem targets for three priority habitats: tidal wetlands, eelgrass, and river miles restored.

Challenges

Habitat restoration projects conducted within the Long Island Sound coastal watershed can be very expensive, limiting the scope and scale of projects. In addition, funding for restoration is limited and competitive, which can reduce the chances of completing projects.

To date, habitat restoration projects around Long Island Sound have been dominated by a few habitat types (tidal wetland, coastal forest). In order to meet the Coastal Habitat Extent goals, it is imperative that other habitat types are funded for habitat restoration.

Tracking habitat restoration projects is dependent on reporting by our Long Island Sound partners and it is imperative that LISS contact all possible partners annually to collect restoration data.

How is This Target Measured?

The Long Island Sound Study Habitat Restoration Coordinators from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) and Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (CTDEEP) track coastal habitat restoration projects that are in progress within the watershed by various partners and report the total acres restored annually.

Importance

Coastal habitats provide a unique and highly productive ecosystem that supports an array of living resources.

Long Island Sound Study’s Habitat Restoration Initiative has identified 12 important coastal habitats to restore. The 12 coastal habitats are tidal wetlands, eelgrass, estuarine embayments, coastal grasslands, coastal and island forests, freshwater wetlands, intertidal flats, rocky intertidal zones, submerged aquatic vegetation, shellfish reefs, beaches and dunes, and riverine migratory corridors*.

Over the years the abundance and diversity of the Sound’s coastal habitats have been diminished, primarily due to development activities that have destroyed or degraded these important areas. Tidal marshes have been ditched or filled, dams have blocked fish from migrating upstream to spawn, and poor water quality has negatively impacted the Sound’s eelgrass beds. The Long Island Sound Study has identified the loss and degradation of coastal habitat as a priority management issue.

Additional Information

Prior to the establishment of ecosystem targets in 2014, LISS had established a goal of restoring 2,000 acres of coastal habitats, excluding eelgrass and river miles, by 2020. Between 1998 and 2018, LISS partners restored 2,001 acres of coastal habitat, restoring that goal ahead of schedule.

The Long Island Sound Study has a database to track and describe every restoration project in the Connecticut and New York portions of the Long Island Sound watershed since 1998.

Contact

Victoria O’Neill, NYSDEC
[email protected]

Harry Yamalis, CTDEEP
[email protected]

Source of Data

CTDEEP, NYSDEC, and Long Island Sound Study Partners

DATA NOTES

  • The technical explanation on how the target was selected is found in Appendix B of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.
  • *The riverine migratory corridor data is included as a separate indicator because units are measured in miles, not acres.
  • Two other ecosystem targets (Eelgrass Extent and Tidal Wetland Extent) are components of the Coastal Habitat Extent target.

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