Assessment of Salt Marsh Restoration Efforts in the Arthur Kill

Case Name:


United States of America

Restoration Types:

Habitat Creation; Habitat Enhancement


Affected DOI Resources:

Migratory Birds


Staten Island



Project Description

The NY/NJ Harbor Oil Spill Restoration Committee provided funding to the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to assess the salt marsh restoration efforts following the 1990 Exxon Bayway oil spill in the Arthur Kill. The NYC Parks Salt Marsh Restoration Team (SMRT) restored 2.43 hectares of marsh along the shoreline at Old Place Creek, Gulfport Reach, Pralls Island, and Saw Mill Creek by planting propagated smooth cordgrass seedlings and mature transplants from nearby marshes. Before and after planting, Total Petroleum Hydrocarbon (TPH) levels in the sediment were measured to examine the reduction of TPH through bioremediation, and to compare the effectiveness of planting smooth cordgrass in oiled sediment compared to natural regeneration at several reference sites that were also impacted by the spill. Several metrics, including plant cover, aboveground biomass, plant height, rhizome spread, basal area, number of stems, and number of flowering stems were monitored for three years following planting. The effects of TPHs on smooth cordgrass seedlings and transplants were presented at the 10th Annual Conference on Contaminated Soils at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in 1995, and published in the book "Contaminated Soils Volume 1" the following year (Restoration of heavily oiled salt marsh using Spartina alterniflora seedlings and transplants: effects on petroleum hydrocarbon levels and soil microflora). Three years after planting, the aboveground biomass at most of the sites was comparable to the biomass at other marshes that have been restored along the East Coast. About 95% of the surface area at the denuded reference sites remained unvegetated seven years after the spill. The SMRT published their findings in the journal "Wetlands Ecology and Management" in 2000 (Restoration of a Spartina alterniflora salt marsh following a fuel oil spill, New York City, NY). NMFS conducted a study in 1996 and 1997 to compare the benthic invertebrate assemblages at six sites in the restored marshes to two existing marshes in the Arthur Kill. One marsh, located at Tufts Point on the New Jersey side of the Arthur Kill, was moderately affected by the oil spill. There was little permanent loss of smooth cordgrass but ribbed mussels experienced 74% mortality. The other marsh, located south of the Outerbridge Crossing at the mouth of Mill Creek on Staten Island, was only minimally impacted the spill. Field sampling took place three and four years after the smooth cordgrass was planted, and the benthic invertebrate community was found to be similar between the restored and existing sites. In 2002, the results were published in the journal "Marine Pollution Bulletin" (Comparison of benthic invertebrate assemblages at Spartina alterniflora marshes reestablished after an oil spill and existing marshes in the Arthur Kill (NY/NJ)).

Restoration Land Ownership

County or Municipal; State

Parties Implementing Restoration

New York City Department of Parks & Recreation; NOAA

DOI Project Representatives

Fish and Wildlife Service

Restoration Documents

Document NameDocument Date
No records to display.

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