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Aquatic Habitats of the Hudson River Estuary

The Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve (leaves DEC website) assists the Hudson River Estuary Program with implementing the Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda-a conservation and restoration blueprint for a strong, vibrant, healthy estuary and watershed.

The Hudson River estuary's diverse habitats-the wetlands, the aquatic plant beds, the shoreline and the bottom of the river itself-are vitally important to the estuarine ecosystem and provide recreation, improved water quality and scenic amenities to humans. Deep-water habitats are havens for many life stages of fish, shellfish and invertebrates that enrich the food chain and help cycle nutrients and sediments. Submerged beds of native aquatic vegetation in waters less than six-feet deep enrich the water column with dissolved oxygen, serve as sheltered nurseries and provide food for fish and crabs. Tidal wetlands, washed by the steady rhythms of high and low tides, buffer our shores, export food to the main river, recycle nutrients, trap contaminants, support countless forms of life and provide important recreational opportunities. The shoreline is a vital connector, corridor and habitat for life that moves between land and water, navigating the vital edge.

These Hudson River estuary habitats are home to a wide variety of plants and animals that are important within New York State and beyond. Conservation priorities include:

  • Brackish and freshwater tidal wetlands that provide essential habitat for diamondback terrapins, fiddler crabs, rails and killifish, river otter, turtles, bald eagles and other raptors, marsh wrens and herons, crayfish and dragonflies and blackbirds
  • Shallows and submerged aquatic plant beds that support blue crabs, bait fish, ducks, osprey, striped bass and American shad
  • Natural shorelines that provide a vital transition zone between water and land and foraging grounds for sandpipers, land mammals and a host of fish
  • River bottom needed by sturgeons, hogchokers, native mussels and oysters
  • Tributary streams accessible to river herring, American eels and other animals that are declining throughout the Northeast

These habitats support extraordinary biological diversity and provide important benefits to humans, yet habitats have been diminished, damaged and disconnected by human patterns of development during the last 150 years. Vast areas of river bottom have been dredged to create and maintain a shipping channel. Tidal wetlands and shallows have been filled, and, in some areas, fill covers a third of the river's original surface area. Nearly half the Hudson's shoreline has been straightened and hardened by human-made structures. Compounding these losses are impacts from sea-level rise and climate change which threaten shoreline and shore communities where water may rise faster than habitats can build up sediments to keep pace. Also, human responses to sea-level rise and increased flooding may include building dikes which will prevent habitats from migrating landward. Finally, the ongoing accidental and deliberate introduction of invasive plants and animals continues to threaten native species and their habitats.

More about Aquatic Habitats of the Hudson River Estuary:

  • Aquatic Connectivity and Barrier Removal - The Hudson River Estuary Watershed has more than 1500 dams, and likely more than ten thousand culverts. The Hudson River Estuary Program and many partners are working towards restoring free flowing tributaries to the Hudson River.
  • Shoreline Habitats - There are many different types of shorelines along the Hudson River that support various forms of wildlife and serve functions for humans.
  • Tidal Wetland Habitats - Hudson River tidal wetlands are a key habitat for birds, turtles, and juvenile fish
  • Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Habitats - SAV beds provide habitat for animals and oxygen into the river
  • River Bottom Habitats - River bottom habitats are important for benthic organisms, and for understanding the history of the Hudson River
  • Habitat Restoration - Habitat restoration can help to sustain fish populations and other life in the river.
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  • Hudson River Estuary Program
    NYSDEC Region 3
    21 S Putt Corners Rd
    New Paltz, NY 12561
    fax: 845-255-3649
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