The Meadowlands Commission is adding another weapon in its battle to increase biodiversity in the 30.4-square-mile district.
This week, Commission naturalists reintroduced saltmarsh bulrush, a valuable wetlands plant, at several sites in the Meadowlands.
The sites included the the Mill Creek Marsh in Secaucus and Harrier Meadow in North Arlington, with more sites planned down the road.
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(Above, NJMC Naturalist Gabrielle Bennett-Meany puts chicken wire around the newly transplanted seedlings at Mill Creek Marsh.)
The bulrush was found throughout the district until the early 1900s.
The construction of tidegates and dikes in much of the 30.4-square-mile Meadowlands District’s marshes drastically affected the marsh ecosystem, allowing an invasive plant called phragmites to colonize and choke out the bulrush and other plants.
But for the past 60 years, the tide has been turning. A storm in 1950 destroyed the dikes by Saw Mill Creek Marsh in Secaucus, and the tides have reclaimed that marsh. Through wetlands mitigation and restoration projects, the NJMC is restoring the tide to other marshes.
To further that effort, NJMC is adding saltmarsh bulrush to the equation. Scirpus robustus was chosen for several reasons. The plant can withstand salt water, its shiny brown seeds are a favorite food of ducks and other waterfowl, and its stems and leaves are used by muskrats to build their lodges.
The perennial, which grows to two to three feet tall, can typically be found in low-salinity marshes from Nova Scotia to Florida.
The bulrush being transplanted this week was grown from seeds from plants that survived at a site in Carlstadt over the years. The bulrush was planted in plots, and then fenced off with chicken wire to keep the muskrats and Canada geese at bay.
NJMC naturalist Gabrielle Bennett-Meany and retired NJMC naturalist Don Smith planting the bulrush.