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North Atlantic / New England Coast - More Information

Background information on DU's North Atlantic / New England Coast conservation priority area
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The North Atlantic Coast Waterfowl Conservation Region (Region 14*) includes the portions of the Atlantic Northern Forest and the New England/Mid-Atlantic Coast Ecoregions identified by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (IAFWA 1998). A chain of extensive estuarine embayments characterizes the North Atlantic Coast , stretching from Long Island Sound, to Scarborough Bay in Maine . The complex geology and geography of the Atlantic coast creates a remarkable diversity of highly productive shallow water and adjacent upland habitats including barrier beach and dune, submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) beds, intertidal sand and mudflats, salt marsh islands, fringing tidal salt marshes, freshwater tidal marsh, and maritime forest. Major river systems drain into estuaries, merging into a network of tidal channels and bays, before ultimately flowing into the Atlantic Ocean . Inland habitats include coastal plain intermittent ponds, hardwood and Atlantic white cedar swamps, upland forests, and agricultural areas.

Coastal and inland wetlands along the Atlantic coast have been recognized as an important ecological resource, not only for waterfowl, but wading birds, shorebirds and other aquatic species that depend upon coastal marshes during their lifetime. Within the mid-Atlantic region, a substantial number of salt marshes have been lost over the past 200 years. Between 1954 and 1978, loss rates were extremely high primarily due to urban and industrial development. However, since the passage of protective legislation, loss rates have declined dramatically. Remaining tidal marsh is fairly well protected, but is severely degraded due to past grid-ditching activities. This practice resulted in altered hydrological patterns, lowered water tables, and invasion of exotic species such as common reed and purple loosestrife. Although coastal wetlands are under protection, protection of inland wetlands is not as effective. Pressure on inland wetlands and adjacent uplands continues to grow due to increases in human populations desiring proximity to coastal areas. The Atlantic coast is the most populated and heavily industrialized coastal area in the world. Industrial and agricultural runoff from major river systems continues to pose a threat to coastal waters and tidal marshes. This development trend continues today with grave consequences for coastal habitats and the wildlife that depend upon those systems.

Atlantic estuaries are a major link in the migratory chain that stretches from South America to Canada. The significance of this complex of habitats relates to its geographic location, which acts to concentrate migratory marine and estuarine species along the coastlines in both directions. The majority of Atlantic flyway populations of brant, greater scaup, black ducks, and bufflehead winter in southern New England and the New York Bight. About 1/3 of the entire Atlantic flyway population of wintering black ducks can be found in the New York Bight. Further, 80% of the wintering population of Atlantic brant are found in New Jersey and Long Island . The most common nesting species in this initiative are mallards, black ducks, and Canada geese. Conservation efforts in along the North Atlantic coast focus on migratory and wintering waterfowl needs, as well as breeding objectives for mallards and black ducks.

*Region 14 - NABCI Bird Conservation Regions 14 & 30 (Atlantic Northern Forest, New England/mid-Atlantic Coast)

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