As readers of this blog and visitors to the Long Wharf Nature Preserve probably know, the Land Trust – with the help of our partners, supporters, and dedicated volunteers – was able to install brand new educational signs in the Long Wharf Nature Preserve last summer. However, what they might not know is that a similar makeover will soon be occurring at our Quinnipiac Meadows Nature Preserve. Again thanks to our generous supporters, partners, and volunteers, the Land Trust will soon be installing eight new educational signs in Quinnipiac Meadows. In honor of this exciting event we wanted to give you a sneak peak of what some of them will say.
Is that an island?
Did you know that once or twice every month an island magically appears in the Quinnipiac Meadows preserve? Okay, well it’s not exactly magic, but every month during the spring tides (the tides that occur just after a new or full moon) the water level of the salt marsh rises enough that a two-acre portion of salt marsh that is normally connected to the mainland becomes an island. In addition to serving as an interesting natural feature of the preserve, these two acres -- known as Grannis Island -- played an important role for the Quinnipiac Tribe of Native Americans, serving as summer hunting grounds for the tribe. In the foreground of this image, one can see Grannis Island during a time where it is connected to the mainland
This photo shows Grannis Island at a time that it is connected to the mainland (Photo courtesy of Ian Christmann)
Making a comeback
Another fascinating element of Quinnipiac Meadows is that it’s currently home to about four nesting couples of ospreys. Ospreys are fish-eating birds of prey that live in a wide variety of habitats and are known for their hunting prowess. In the 1950s and 60s, osprey populations experienced a dramatic decline partially because of the negative effects of the pesticide DDT on the reproductive process of the birds. Thankfully, due to the ban of DDT in 1972 and reduced persecution of the bird, osprey populations have made significant recoveries in recent decades. Quinnipiac Meadows serves as an ideal location for ospreys to live because of its coastal location, its proximity to shallow waters teeming with fish, and the nesting platforms that were constructed in the preserve. Keep an eye out when you visit the preserve and see if you can spot the adult ospreys and their chicks!
Ospreys use the nesting platforms in the preserve to raise and rear their young year after year. (Photo Courtesy of Chung-Leong Chan)
Unfortunately, the Quinnipiac Meadows Nature Preserve is currently in danger. As you may know, the increase in global temperatures that has occurred because of climate change has led to the warming of oceans and ultimately the melting of ice sheets. This in turn has led to rising sea levels that, according to predictions by The Nature Conservancy, could put Quinnipiac Meadows underwater by 2080. Historically, salt marshes like Quinnipiac Meadows have been able withstand the gradual rise of sea levels through the processes of accretion, by which marshes grows vertically, and marsh migration, by which marshes move horizontally. However, because climate change is causing the rate of sea level rise to increase and in many places human development blocks marshes from moving horizontally, these processes are no longer enough to ensure the survival of the marshes. With the loss of salt marshes would go the ecosystem services and habitats that these lands provide, as well as the simple beauty of the salt marsh ecosystem. This fear of losing Quinnipiac Meadows serves as a poignant reminder of our responsibility to do all that we can to prevent climate change.
The figure on the left shows the water level at the Quinnipiac Meadows now and the figure on the right shows the predicted water level at Quinnipiac Meadows in 2080. (Figures courtesy of The Nature Conservancy)
(Cover photo courtesy of Ian Christmann)