Current Research Projects
Current Research Projects
In October 2013, the NJMC received a $235,000 federal Environmental Protection Agency grant to study environmental obstacles to improving seven wetlands sites in the Meadowlands District. NJSEA research staff will analyze the diversity of plants, including invasive species as indicators of ecological function. They will measure habitat fragmentation, tidal restrictions, proximity to landfills and other factors that could prevent wetlands from functioning effectively.
The research, which will take place in 2014 and 2015, will involve high-tech measurement methods, including remote sensing and sonar. When fully functional, wetlands improve water quality, reduce the impact of flooding by serving as surface water storage basins, and provide shelter and forage for wildlife.
The NJMC in 2013 also continued an ongoing study that analyzes the quantity of carbon that the Meadowlands wetlands are able to capture to prevent this harmful greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere. Simultaneously, researchers are measuring the amount of carbon that the wetlands emit into the air. The project is being funded by a $300,000 National Science Foundation grant.
In 2013, staff began a fishery resource inventory of the Lower Hackensack River. The study is comparing the overall amounts and number of species of fish found in the District portion of the river from 2013 to 2015 against inventories taken from 24-month studies in 1987-1988 and 2001-2003. The 2001-2003 study showed a large increase in the abundance of certain species, including white perch, striped bass and bluefish, attesting to the improved water quality of the river.
An ongoing Diamondback Terrapin population study continues to return positive results. In 2013, 166 terrapins were caught during five trapping events. Of that total, 125 were new captures and 41 were re-captures. The number of new captures is an encouraging sign that points to a large population as a result of a cleaner Hackensack River. Diamondback Terrapins surveyed during the study are marked and released, unharmed, where they were captured. Since 2009, staff has caught a total of 1,249 terrapins; 1,038 were new captures and 211 were re-captures.
The turtle study, which includes collaboration with scientists and students from The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor and Montclair State University, will help the NJMC answer questions about the life history of terrapins in the Meadowlands, including population size, how far the turtles move within a marsh and their growth rate.
Diamondback Terrapins are of particular interest to the because they are near the top of the food chain in the Meadowlands’ brackish marshes, are relatively new to the District – they were first observed in the 1970s – and have experienced a recent population explosion.
The NJMC’s bird-banding program provides an important look into the numbers of species of birds that can be found in the Meadowlands, either seasonally or year-round, and how they are making use of habitats growing on or near a former landfill.
Bird banding entails briefly catching birds in delicate netting called mist nets, and then placing them in soft cotton bags and taking them to a makeshift bird-banding station where the birds are weighed, measured and banded with a small aluminum ring that includes a unique serial number for future reference. The bands do not cause discomfort to the birds or affect their ability to fly.
In 2013, the NJMC banded 5,503 birds. More than 26,000 birds have been banded since the program began in 2008. The information helps researchers learn more about how habitats in the Meadowlands benefit migrating birds.
Additional ongoing studies being include:
• A study of the benthic macro invertebrate community of the Meadowlands comparing populations from 2013-2014 to 2002 and 1987.
• A survey of plants within the Hackensack Meadowlands District.
• A study of the diversity, abundance and duration of time that migratory birds use Commission landfills and the Harrier Meadow enhancement site as feeding grounds during their stopovers in the Meadowlands. High-tech microphones and recording equipment are used to track the number of birds that fly over the landfills.