Although the Reserve contains some of the best examples of native Hudson River estuarine natural communities, historically these sites have been affected negatively by invasive plant species, altered hydrology, land use patterns, and dredging and filling activities associated with the construction of the federal navigation channel and railroad dikes. While many of these impacts are irreversible, there are opportunities for enhancing ecosystem function in the Reserve through habitat restoration. As a living laboratory, the Reserve serves as both a reference site and place to test innovative restoration strategies that advance restoration science and inform decision‐making. We leverage long‐term monitoring data to evaluate restoration success and develop models and tools to support restoration planning.
We began working with the New York State Thruway Authority (NYSTA) in 2013 to design and implement the restoration of a tidal side channel at Stockport Flats. The project is the first of its kind in the Hudson River estuary and is intended to restore a valuable mosaic of shallow water, tidal wetland, and shoreline habitats.
Construction of the 1,200-foot-long by 100-foot-wide side channel was completed in 2017. The project involved the excavation and onsite reuse of approximately 20,000 cubic yards of historical dredge spoils and the installation of more than 5,000 native plant plugs and 600 live stakes. Since 2018, we have been monitoring key structural and functional indicators of ecosystem health. Continued monitoring at both project and reference sites will inform adaptive management, evaluate project success, and guide future restoration efforts.
In 2018, we worked with NYSTA, AKRF, Inc., the Hudson River Foundation, the Billion Oyster Project, and the University of New Hampshire to create more than five acres of oyster habitat at three sites near the new Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. These sites were selected after a three-year pilot study on the performance of various artificial reef materials and locations for restoration in the Tappan Zee.
Nearly 900 concrete reef balls and more than 400 oyster shell gabions were placed at strategic locations along the river bottom. The Billion Oyster Project and New York Harbor School constructed the steel gabion structures and filled them with recycled oyster shells from restaurants. The reef balls and gabions provide habitat for a variety of estuarine fish and an ideal hard surface where oyster larvae can attach and grow. Although additional monitoring is needed to evaluate the long-term sustainability of the reef communities, successful early reef development has been observed at all three restoration sites.
Restoration Story Map
The National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) has published a Restoration Story Map that highlights lessons learned from restoration efforts nationwide. Stories related to marshes, dunes, uplands, living shorelines and oyster reefs are currently included and communicate the contribution of NERRS to restoration science. Moreover, the story map provides links to relevant data, as well as data analysis tools developed by NERRS and restoration-related funding opportunities.
As a living project, the story map will continue to expand as new stories, including those featuring additional habitats, are submitted. NERRS encourages restoration practitioners to visit the story map and explore collaborative restoration science opportunities with NERRS sites, like the Hudson River Reserve!