Friday, January 4, 2013 - 9:55pm
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An important habitat for fish and birds, wetlands -- where the water meets the land -- are also beneficial to people, too; buffering stormy waters, preventing floods, filtering pollution and slowing erosion. Hundreds of years ago, New York City had an estimated 324,000 acres of coastal and freshwater wetlands. Today, less than one percent of freshwater wetlands and only 25% of coastal wetlands remain.

The NYC Parks Department has announced a new project sponsored by federal, state and city agencies that will allow research on opportunities to protect local wetlands as the sea level rises over the next century. In late December, the Natural Resources Group (NRG) of the Parks Dept. received a $222,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency which was matched by New York City and includes data from the NY State Energy Research and Development Authority.

NRG researchers will assess conditions at existing salt marshes to determine which are most vulnerable to being submerged by rising sea levels, and then develop recommendations for these sites.

The NRG and other city and state agencies have worked for several decades to protect and restore salt marsh ecosystems throughout New York City. NRG helped create the Harbor Estuary Program's Comprehensive Restoration Plan and also works with the US Army Corps of Engineers on restoration projects where historic salt marshes were converted to land fill, such as Marine Park in Brooklyn and Soundview Park in the Bronx (see story below).

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