Sandy's Positive Impacts Begin to Appear

Beaches, wetlands, and bays benefit.

The washout on the beach at Gateway National Recreation Area; Queens and Manhattan in the far distance; November 2012.     Photo: SandyResponseNPS / Flickr

Scientists studying the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy say that for all its destruction, the superstorm actually brought about many positive environmental changes.

National Geographic reports that the landscape transformations, including better bird beaches, were a good thing. When Sandy plowed through New York’s Gateway National Recreation Area, it ripped out 59 acres of beach grass, which had previously encroached on shorebirds’ nesting grounds. The result: an almost 100 percent increase in nesting habitat.

"Not only that, the storm scoured the sand and bared seashell deposits, which the birds prefer for nesting," says Hanem Grace Abouelezz, a biologist for the National Park Service, who notes that shells help camouflage nests.

Wetlands, such as the 8,400-acre Meadowland also benefited. "The storm actually moved a lot of debris out of the marshes that had been lodged there a long time," said Captain Bill Sheehan of Hackensack Riverkeeper. Everything from trees to trash was washed out, and was replaced with sediment, which provides a good foundation for mash grasses.

One Fire Island breach wasn’t filled in after the storm and has since increased in size, becoming a haven for seals, small sharks, fluke, striped bass, bluefish, and—of course—fishermen. 

"You can see the bottom of the bay. It's clear," says marine scientist Charles Flagg, who has been monitoring the area for almost a decade. "That hasn't happened here in years.

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