The Delaware Center for the Inland Bays will plant 5,800 seedlings this spring at Assawoman Wildlife Area in Frankford and the Sussex Landfill site in Lewes, projects that will restore wildlife habitat and improve water quality in the local Inland Bays.
More than 100 volunteers are needed for each planting event.
The planting at Assawoman Wildlife Area will take place Friday, March 29, and Saturday, March 30, at a site located off Double Bridges Road in Frankford, across from the Ocean Farm and Clearwater Villages communities. Then the following weekend, Saturday, April 6, a planting will occur at the Sussex County Landfill No. 3 Buffer Site in Lewes, just off Dorman Road near Lochwood.
Since the time of European development, forestland on coastal Delaware has declined as agriculture increased and development began to take over. Between 1992 to 2012 alone, eastern Sussex County lost more than 14 square miles of upland forest, further intensifying the negative impacts of human influence on wildlife and water quality.
These impacts include a loss of habitat for native wildlife like songbirds, deer and turkeys, as well as an increase in nutrient pollution to creeks, rivers and bays. Excess nutrients like phosphorus and nitrogen can have harmful effects on commercially-important species like blue crabs and rockfish by creating dead zones, or areas that don’t have enough oxygen in the water to support aquatic life.
By converting agricultural land to forestland, these projects will reduce approximately 400 pounds of phosphorus and 10 pounds of nitrogen from entering local water each year. As the forests grow, the trees will store also carbon; a vital process called carbon sequestration that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and mitigates climate change.
In addition, the planting will create almost five acres of interior forest habitat. Many neotropical migratory songbirds such as eastern towhee, yellow-breasted chat, and American redstart, depend on these corridors for nesting, feeding and raising their young.