The Jamaica Bay Observing System: Process Studies and Groundwork for Long-Term Ecosystem Research and Resilience
John F. Marra, Brooklyn College; Robert J. Chant, Rutgers University; Arnold L. Gordon, Columbia University; Christopher Zappa, Columbia University


Jamaica Bay is a complex system of human, physical, and natural processes. This study will help quantify and elucidate an array of key interactions in the system with the goal of better understanding how the system works and how it responds to change. A better understanding of the system in its entirety–covering the strong interactions between processes such as dredging, circulation of waters, sediment transport, marsh accretion, and erosion—will help efforts to manage the Bay’s health and the strength of the ecosystem services that the bay provides to surrounding communities.

This project will launch an extensive field effort that includes an array of moored instruments, fixed-tower meteorological observations, and shipboard surveys. Measurements from this array will create a data set that will provide new insights into the Bay’s circulation and the effects that these dynamics have on the flow of sediments, nutrients, and other materials.

The field program will be designed to address the following questions. What are the relative roles of tides, winds, and buoyancy in driving the Bay’s circulation and flushing time? What is the sign and magnitude of sediment through Rockaway Inlet and throughout the system, and how does this vary with tides and meteorological forcing? What is the relative importance of wind waves versus boat wakes in driving marsh erosion? What is the effect of the dredged channel in modifying wave activity and sediment transport processes? And finally, what is the net ecosystem metabolism in the Bay? Answers to these questions are essential to assess the relative role of human impacts on the system and the future sustainability of Jamaica Bay. Moreover, the insights we gain are essential to assess the skill of numerical models of physical and ecological processes in the Bay.

The infrastructure purchased with this project will be owned by the Science and Resilience Institute at Jamaica Bay (SRIJB) and available for use by other consortium members in future studies. In addition, the proposed project includes a pilot demonstration of a real-time observatory that will commence long-term ecosystem time-series data useful for both management, scientific, and outreach activities in this system.

Funding: Department of Interior, National Park Service
Project Period: November 2014 – October 2016

The Jamaica Bay Observing System