The Western Bays, an ecosystem suffering from all sides

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Vast amounts of Ulva lactuca accumulate at Jones inlet, where it sits and festers, forming hydrogen sulfide, which produces a foul odor. “The odors and the hydrogen sulfide have created quite a problem for the general [population],” said Swanson. “Some people in the community complain that the hydrogen sulfide has caused the paint on their houses to turn black.”

Saving the bays
Dr. Jason Williams, associate professor at Hofstra University’s biology department, stressed the importance of keeping the bays clean. “If you don’t have healthy marshes, then there isn’t that kind of protective barrier to our lands and houses,” he said. “Ecologically, they’re really important because they’re a nursery for fish. There are birds that nest there and forage there. There’s a really high productivity in marshes and a wide diversity of species,” he said.

Williams and other Hofstra professors like Dr. Russell Burke, of Bellmore, chairman of the university’s biology department, are dedicated to cleaning up the bays. Both Williams and Burke are involved in a community-based volunteer effort in partnership with Hofstra to remove Styrofoam, tires, wood and other large debris at a salt marsh in Long Beach.

“The important thing is that if you leave it, the marsh grass will die underneath the [debris] because without living marsh grass, then the waves and the constant beating of the area will cause it to break down. Then you have less of a barrier to storms,” he said.

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