Healthy Habitats

Healthy habitats for fish and wildlife are important to water quality, the economy, and human and environmental health. Key habitats in the Delaware Estuary and Basin include wetlands, forests, and fish and shellfish habitat.

Goal 1:Prevent Wetland Loss

HOW WE WILL MEASURE SUCCESS:

  • Minimize loss of wetland areas
  • Improve wetland conditions
  • Increase protected and restored wetland acres/sites

Goal 2: Stem Forest Loss

HOW WE WILL MEASURE SUCCESS:

  • Improve access to information about the Estuary
  • Improve the engagement of citizen scientists, stewards, and key stakeholders

Goal 3: Increase and Improve Fish and Shellfish Habitat

HOW WE WILL MEASURE SUCCESS:

  • Improve shellfish habitat and abundance and oyster productivity
  • Improve habitat for fish and crabs
  • Increase and improve fish/shellfish restoration projects
Prevent Wetland Loss

Strategy H1.1: Establish clear baselines for tidal wetland conditions and track changes over time

Performance Measures & Key Deliverables:

  • Complete baseline rapid assessments (e.g., Mid-Atlantic Tidal Wetland Rapid Assessment Method) for all watersheds adjoining the Delaware Estuary by 2025
  • Maintain landscape-level inventory maps (e.g., National Wetlands Inventory) no more than 10 years old for all watersheds adjoining the Delaware Estuary
  • Repeat rapid condition assessments in rapidly-changing watershed (e.g., urban areas) every 10 years
  • Produce one research report or product annually and an integrated report every five years to identify wetland stressors, translate outcomes, and guide tidal wetland management and restoration, respectively
  • Track monitoring and research on tidal wetlands within the Delaware Estuary focus area and vicinity

Strategy H1.2: Restore, enhance, and manage tidal wetlands for maximum health and resilience

Performance Measures & Key Deliverables:

  • Use MACWA data and mapping tools to identify and implement five pilot projects by 2022 to restore or avert the loss of 100 acres in different tributary watersheds along the Estuary’s salinity gradient
  • Produce one research or monitoring report annually to guide successful implementation of nature-based tactics
  • Use research and monitoring to identify ways to increase wetland health and resiliency via practices such as Phragmites, mosquito, hydrology, and buffer management
  • Track restoration, management, research project numbers, and results on tidal wetlands

Strategy H1.3: Develop and implement natural and nature-based techniques to stabilize and restore eroding shorelines, and to build and protect wetlands, infrastructure, and other key resources

Performance Measures & Key Deliverables:

  • Produce at least one new report, guidance product, or training annually to share research and development of new and innovative nature-based tactics and decision support tools to sustain,
    enhance, or restore tidal wetlands
  • Implement 5 new living shoreline projects spanning the salinity gradient over 10 years, including at least one large-scale project
  • Produce one monitoring report annually to assess and translate outcomes from at least one living shoreline project
  • Track the number and results of restoration projects that use nature-based methods such as, but not limited to, living shorelines

Strategy H1.4: Protect, enhance, and improve non-tidal wetlands

Performance Measures & Key Deliverables:

  • Identify, plan, and prioritize high-value nontidal wetlands to protect in each state by 2025
  • Increase protection and restoration of nontidal wetlands with at least one successful example in each state annually
  • Produce at least one outreach product annually to promote non-tidal wetlands’ stewardship, protection, and restoration
  • Track number and results of projects for nontidal wetlands’ restoration and protection
Stem Forest Loss

Strategy H2.1: Inventory, map, and increase connectivity and resilience of forests for water quality

Performance Measures & Key Deliverables:

  • Inventory baseline forest acreage and conditions for water quality
  • Identify strategies and begin measuring connectivity between forest patches compared to baselines
  • Assess likely changes from baseline in forest acreage and conditions attributable to climate change and other factors, and furnish recommendations to increase resiliency
  • Track baseline products and projects for forests

Strategy H2.2: Promote stewardship practices by local partners for the health and sustainability of forests for water quality

Performance Measures & Key Deliverables:

  • Increase the number of forest landowners and acres in stewardship management plans and restoration activities
  • Maintain/increase funding for forest cost-share and incentive programs
  • Track number and results of forest restoration, management, and research projects

Strategy H2.3: Protect and manage high-value and threatened forests for water quality

Performance Measures & Key Deliverables:

  • Place an additional 50,000 acres of forests under permanent protection by 2025 with examples that preserve or enhance forest connectivity in each state
  • Develop new partnerships to encourage economic incentives and opportunities for forest stewardship for landowners
  • Track number and results of landowner outreach forest protection projects
Increase and Improve Fish and Shellfish Habitat

Strategy H3.1: Inventory, map, protect, and enhance habitat critical for fish and crabs

Performance Measures & Key Deliverables:

  • Complete a baseline benthic map of vegetated and hard-bottom reef habitats throughout the tidal Estuary and develop a strategy to update benthic maps periodically
  • Make progress in restoring fish passage by alleviating at least one obstruction per state
  • Develop a sustained propagation and restocking program for shad

  • Track the number and results of restoration, enhancement, and mapping projects for fish/crab habitat

Strategy H3.2: Restore oyster beds and productivity in and around the Delaware Bay

Performance Measures & Key Deliverables:

  • Sustain effective research, monitoring, and management of oyster reefs, including studies of the ecosystem services oysters provide
  • Secure at least $1 million annually by 2022 to support shell planting that boosts oyster recruitment and productivity
  • Produce and distribute materials promoting oyster restoration and shell recycling (restaurants, volunteers)
  • Track the number and results of restoration, enhancement, and outreach projects to measure the number of oysters in the Estuary annually

Strategy H3.3: Inventory, restore, and manage mussel populations

Performance Measures & Key Deliverables:

  • Increase survey coverage, both scientific and volunteer, annually to assess native freshwater mussels’ status
  • Conduct research and produce one report annually to demonstrate tactics to enhance freshwater and ribbed mussel populations and associated ecosystem services
  • Increase populations of native freshwater mussels annually by enhancing their habitat and expanding propagation and reseeding programs
  • Perform at least one project annually to sustain or enhance ribbed mussel populations, such as via hatchery propagation or use in living shorelines
  • Track the number and results of surveys, research, and restoration projects related to both freshwater and saltwater mussels

Strategy H3.4: Protect and restore horseshoe crabs and their habitat

Performance Measures & Key Deliverables:

  • Sustain annual spawning and trawl surveys of horseshoe crabs and annual shorebird surveys with
    volunteers
  • Sustain or increase participation in sanctuaries, volunteer flipping activities, and distribution of educational materials (including plush horseshoe crab)
  • Increase the number of beach restoration projects to provide high-quality horseshoe crab spawning and shorebird foraging and nesting habitat
  • Conduct research and expand monitoring to understand the habitat needs of juvenile horseshoe crabs
  • Track the number and results of surveys, research, and restoration projects related to horseshoe crabs to increase protection and monitoring/research

Strategy H3.5: Manage and improve populations of rare, endangered, or otherwise important native species in the Delaware Estuary

Performance Measures & Key Deliverables:

  • Use SMPs to assess the cumulative effects of impingement/entrainment on ecologically important native species
  • Develop contingency plan for zebra mussels
  • Work with partners to identify and reduce habitat acres affected by invasive species annually in each state
  • Perform annual outreach to increase stewardship and landowners’ use of native species
  • Track the number and results of species-related projects