Threatened Species in New York City!

By Hecht, Anne | Endangered Species Bulletin, March 1998 | Go to article overview

Threatened Species in New York City!


Hecht, Anne, Endangered Species Bulletin


It's not your stereotypical endangered species setting. The last turn before the beach takes you under the tracks of the elevated subway train. The boardwalk, just beyond the apartment buildings, is wide enough for the City of New York Parks and Recreation Department's Urban Park Rangers to drive their trucks. But seaward of the boardwalk, along one of the few stretches of undeveloped shoreline along the Rockaway Peninsula in the borough of Queens, lies a remarkable community of rare beach-dwelling species, including two federally-listed species and a State-listed bird.

The piping plover (Charadrius melodus), a small shorebird with colors that help it blend in with beach sand, is listed under the Endangered Species Act as threatened. Nine pairs of plovers, nesting along less than a mile of beach at Arverne, fledged 18 young in 1997, far exceeding average productivity for this species. The threatened seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilis), an annual plant, experiences wide year-to-year fluctuations in numbers. Three thousand plants gave Arverne one of the species' largest populations in 1997. Forty-six pairs of least terns (Sterna antillarum), another beach-nesting bird protected under New York State law as an endangered species, bred at Arverne in 1997. Both the least tern and piping plover nest directly on the sand just landward of the high tide line, and the amaranth germinates in the same area. All three species are extremely vulnerable to habitat loss due to beach stabilization activities and impacts from beach recreation, while the birds also face threats from predators such as domestic cats, rats, crows, and gulls. …

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