Ecosystem-Based Management, sometimes referred to as EBM, is a planning tool. It helps guide decisions on where to place development such as roads, buildings, trails, beaches etc., while also considering the long and short term impacts to the environment. It also looks at how development effects not just the surrounding environment, but also the upstream and downstream environment. EBM helps remind us to take the big picture view when we do work in our State Parks.
New York State Parks’ Environmental Management Bureau has been implementing Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM) in our parks statewide since 2008.
EBM relies on citizen participation, partnerships, science-based approaches, and taking a long-term view to provide an informed and adaptive approach to protecting our ecosystems while providing park patrons with experiences that connect them to the natural world.
There are 6 main components to EBM. These include:
Scientific foundations used for decision-making;
Measurable management objectives to direct and evaluate performance;
Adaptive management to respond to new knowledge;
Recognition of interconnections within and among ecosystems; and,
Involvement of stakeholders.
Taking this approach allows us to look at interacting systems, like watersheds, rather than individual components, such as a specific plant or animal or isolated water quality parameters. NYS Parks has used this approach to help better understand, protect and manage our resources, such as swimming beaches, lake water quality, forest health, species richness, and aquatic connectivity.
In addition to helping us look at our natural environment in a more integrated way, EBM provides a means to communicate with multiple stakeholders including citizens, scientists, the private sector and government officials.
NYS Parks will continue to integrate EBM into programs andactivities through training, watershed educational materials and ecosystem research, as well as projects which demonstrate that healthy ecosystems mean healthy communities. Look for these EBM educational panels at Sunken Meadow State Park on Long Island (pictured above)! More educational panels and kiosks showing how our parks are part of the larger landscape are in the works for parks along the St. Lawrence River and Great Lakes. Keep an eye out for them!
A highlight to any winter beach walk on a Long Island State Park beach is the sighting of a seal, either hauled out on sand bars during low tide or swimming off the beach at high tide.
Harbor and grey seals, and more rarely hooded, ringed, and harp seals can be seen off of Long Island from late fall through early spring. These seals belong to the family Pinniped, meaning “feather-footed” or “wing-footed.” They are considered true seals – meaning they have no ear flaps, their front flippers are short, and their necks are short. Seals are excellent divers; they can hold their breath for 40 minutes, swim up to eight miles an hour, and dive up to 600 feet. They eat a variety of fish and invertebrates including crabs and squid. Thanks to a thick layer of fat and a dense coat seals keep warm in winter.
The best time to see large groups of seals is at low tide when they haul out of the water to rest and sleep on sand bars and rocks. When seals are hauled out at low tide they hold their head and tail up in a “banana-shaped” position. Be sure to watch the seals from a distance since seals can be easily scared.
Harbor Seals are the most common seal that you will see. These 4-1/2’ – 6’ seals range in color from tan to brown to light gray with irregular black spots. They have a smallish head that looks like a Cocker Spaniel in profile. This profile gave them the nickname “sea dog.” Their nostrils are “V” shape when seen from the front. Harbor seals weigh 250 lb.
Gray Seals are a large seal with gray coloration. Interestingly, adult males are dark gray with small black markings and adult females are light gray or brown with dark patches. Males can be 8’ long and weigh 800 lb., females 7’ and weigh 400 lb. They have a distinctive “horsehead” profile and their nostrils form a “W” when seen from the front. Females have a slightly smaller head than males.
Hooded Seals are the largest seal that winters off of Long Island; males are 9’ long and females are 7’ long. Males weigh 900 lb., females 670 lb. The coat coloration of silver-grey with irregular black spots is the same in both adult males and females. First year pups have a slate colored coat. All female and juvenile male hooded seals have a larger head and broader muzzle than the harbor seal. Adult males have an unusual nasal apparatus that they will inflate when they are angered or threatened. Juvenile males do not have this nasal sac.
It is always a thrill to see harp seals and ringed seals because they are rare visitors to Long Island.
Harp Seal adults are white with a dark harp- or saddle-shaped pattern on its back and flanks. The more common juveniles have a light coat with dark blotches. Harp seals look similar to harbor seals in profile but they are slightly larger (both males and females are 6’ long and weigh 400 lb.) and they have a stockier body than the harbor seal.
Ringed Seals are the rarest and smallest seals found off of the New York coast in the winter; they measure between 4’-5-1/2’ long and weigh between 150-250 lb. Generally, the coats are a gray-black color with numerous dark spots surrounded by light areas that look like rings. Juvenile ring seals have a fine silvery coat. From a distance, ringed seals have a slightly smaller head than a harbor seal and their nose is more pointed than a harbor seal.
And please keep your dog at home. You wouldn’t want your dog scaring the seals.
Katona, Steven, Rough, Valerie, and Richardson, David (1983). A field guide to the whales, porpoises, and seas on the Gulf of Maine and Eastern Canada : Cape Cod to Newfoundland. New York: Charles Scribner and Sons.
A rare denizen of NYS Parks in Long Island is the least tern. This state-threatened species is challenged by both loss of nesting habitat, as well as predation by rats, dogs, cats, and other birds.
The least tern is so named because it is the smallest member of the gull and tern family, growing to a maximum of only nine inches in body length. These beautiful birds make their homes on the Atlantic coast. In the winter, least terns migrate to the southern United States and the Mexican coast, but once it becomes warmer, they return to the beaches of Long Island to nest. Even though they are small, least terns are mighty. If an intruder crosses a nest, the tern will dive at the possible predator screeching to frighten the danger away. Least terns also make a habit to roosting with larger terns for protection.
The importance of Long Island shoreline habitat to least terns, as well as a plethora of other migratory bird species, is the main reason why some Long Island beaches are off limits to dogs. Even where pets are allowed, be conscious of how your dog might be affecting wildlife and protect the habitat of this small, but magnificent bird.
featured image is a pair of least terns, by Larry Master. Post by Paris Harper
The discovery of a new species is always a big deal, especially when it’s been living right under the noses of over 8 million residents of New York City and the surrounding counties. A new species of leopard frog, still unnamed, was first identified by Jeremy A. Fienberg of Rutgers University in 2009 on Staten Island, and DNA tests confirmed his discovery in 2012.
It’s no mystery how this mystery frog escaped our notice for so long. There are over a dozen leopard frog species that range between Canada and Central America, and until Fienberg recognized their distinctly different vocalizations, all the leopard frogs of NY were presumed to be either northern leopard frogs (Rana pipiens), or southern leopard frogs (R. sphenocephala).
New York State Parks is collaborating with the NY Natural Heritage Program on a regional study aimed at defining the range of the newly described species in comparison to the northern and southern leopard frog. The study’s objectives are to define the distribution, habitat use, and conservation status of the three species from Rhode Island through Virginia by matching calling surveys with follow-up surveys to catch, photograph, and get tissue samples from frogs. In New York, efforts are focusing on the Hudson Valley and Long Island, where State Parks contain some large wetlands that may be suitable as leopard frog habitat.
As part of this project, Natural Heritage biologists Kelly Perkins, Rich Ring, and Matt Schlesinger, and Parks biologist Jesse Jaycox, conducted surveys and habitat assessments for leopard frogs at wetlands in state parks. These surveys were conducted at Goose Pond Mountain, Tallman Mountain, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Taconic State Parks. Despite spending long evenings in the parks at night, when frogs are most active, no leopard frogs were found. However, these wetlands are home to many other types of frogs, including Green Frogs (R. clamitans), spring peepers (Pseudacris crucifer), wood frogs (R. sylvatica), and pickerel frogs (R. Palustris).
For now, this new species remains a cryptic member of New York’s natural wildlife. Hopefully, we’ll get to know it better in the future.
The featured image is the unnamed species of leopard frog, by Matt Schlesinger. Post by Matt Schlesinger and Paris Harper.
Update: The newly discovered leopard frog species has been named the Atlantic coast leopard frog, Rana kauffeldi.
NOAA’s Marine Debris Blog has a blog post up on the great work that New York State Parks is doing in Long Island parks to clean up Sandy debris. The featured image is post-storm damage at Jones Beach State Park, by NYS Parks.