The health of maritime forests in three Mid-Atlantic National Seashores

Science Center Objects

The 2017 Work Plan for the National Resources Protection Program (NRPP) project on Fire Island, Sandy Hook, and Assateague includes a description of the issues and implications; description of the methods; and summary of the 2017 tasks, including site selection, well and instrumentation installation, and monitoring groundwater levels, temperature, and specific conductance.

Map of maritime forest health study areas

Map showing the study areas and closer details of three of the sites from the maritime forest health study in the Mid-Atlantic

(Public domain.)

The old-growth maritime forests host unique ecosystems of local species, provide stop-over sites for migrating shore birds, and are important parts of the larger barrier-island natural habitats preserved in National Seashores that occur few other places on the East Coast.


The Old-Growth Forests of NPS National Seashores, including the Sunken Forest (American Holly) of Fire Island, Bayshore Holly Maritime Forest of Sandy Hook, and Pine Forest of Assateague are threatened by global climate change, especially sea-level rise (SLR) and potential increased storm frequency and intensity.


The recent unusual and substantial mortality in the old-growth holly maritime forests on Fires Island and Sandy Hook and the near-complete devastation of the old-growth pine maritime forest on Assateague indicate that global change threatens the near-term (10- to 50-year) viability of these ecosystems.


The purpose of this study is to collect, compile and analyze data on groundwater and surface-water levels, land-surface elevation, near-surface salinity, and ecosystem responses to aid in defining the physical mechanisms thought to be associated with the viability of the old-growth ecosystems at Assateague, Fire Island and Sandy Hook.