Conserve Wildlife Blog

CWF Celebrates Another Successful Growing Season for Seabeach Amaranth

October 25th, 2022

By Todd Pover, Senior Wildlife Biologist

This season marked the fourth year that CWF has been involved in helping protect and recover seabeach amaranth, a state and federally-listed beach plant. Starting in 2019, in partnership with and through funding by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – New Jersey Field Office (USFWS), CWF began to protect amaranth on Monmouth County beaches, then the stronghold for the plant in the state. After promising results that first year, the USFWS expanded the initiative to other coastal counties, making it more of a statewide effort.

Seabeach amaranth plant

Under the project, CWF staff begins surveying the state’s Atlantic coast beaches in early June looking for newly germinated amaranth plants. Once found, we protect the plants with fence and signage, so they aren’t trampled by beach goers or driven over by vehicles. In the past, annual surveys of the plants were conducted in New Jersey at the peak of the growing season – late July and August – but there was little pro-active protection of the plants earlier in the season.

In 2022, CWF found or protected 1840 plants at 27 sites. The plant total this year was well above those the previous two seasons, 800 and 988 plants in 2021 and 2020, respectively. To add even more perspective, just a decade ago in 2013, only 316 plants were known to occur in the entire state, and only 3 of those plants were outside of Sandy Hook, which has typically been the epicenter for seabeach amaranth in the state since it was rediscovered in New Jersey about two decades ago. It should be noted that CWF’s tallies reported here are not the statewide total, other partners count plants at the state and federally owned beaches and those tallies are not included in ours. Nonetheless, the population increase at sites monitored by CWF and at sites outside of Sandy Hook demonstrate the success of the recent management effort.

Over the course of the past several years, there has also been a shift in distribution, with sites outside of Sandy Hook accounting for notably more of the statewide population than in the past. Some of the sites monitored by CWF this year with the most plants include Deal, Mantoloking, Monmouth Beach, and Point Pleasant (Inlet Beach). A significant number of plants now occur south of Monmouth County, especially the beaches in northern Ocean County. One of the long-term goals of the projects is to expand the distribution of plants so it is not overly concentrated in just one segment of the coast. That goal has already been partially achieved, although there are still only a handful of plants occurring in the most southern portion of the state, Atlantic and Cape May counties. The hope is plants will continue to expand there in the next couple of years, even as they continue to thrive further north.

Unlike the beach nesting bird season, which typically wraps up on our beaches in August, the seabeach amaranth growing season can extend into November in years when weather is mild and coastal storms don’t bury or kill plants. CWF maintains its protective plant fences well into the fall, so our amaranth work isn’t quite done for the year. That said, the remnants of Hurricane Ian caused major storm surge along the New Jersey coast in early October, which destroyed many of the remaining plants. However, that is not entirely a bad thing as seabeach amaranth is an annual plant that depends on wind and tides to help disperse its seeds. Ian may have helped spread seeds to new sites for next year.

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