Strategies to Conserve and Enhance Sandy Barrier Habitat for Horseshoe Crabs (Limulus polyphemus) on Developed Shorelines in Delaware Bay, United States



The ability to successfully manage estuarine shorelines requires balancing ecological function with societal demands. The sandy barriers of Delaware Bay provide important spawning habitat for horseshoe crabs but they are modified for shore protection. This chapter provides a review of the sandy shoreline resources within Delaware Bay; describes the spatial and temporal scales of processes that govern their dimensions, location, morphology, and sedimentary characteristics; compares management programs in the state of Delaware and New Jersey for managing sandy shorelines in the estuary; and provides examples of the status of developed sandy barriers where high levels of horseshoe crab spawning occur.


Horseshoe Crab Beach Nourishment Migratory Shorebird Shore Protection National Estuary Program 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This publication was supported by the National Sea Grant Program of the US Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under NOAA Grant No. R/CZM-2004-1 and R/F-2006-2. NJSG-08-685. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of any of those organizations.


  1. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission (1998) Interstate fishery management plan for horseshoe crab. Fishery Management Report No. 32. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  2. Avissar NG (2006) Modeling potential impacts of beach replenishment on horseshoe crab nesting habitat suitability. Coast Manage 34:427–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Baker AJ, González PM, Piersma T, Niles LJ, de Lima I, do Nascimento S, Atkinson PW, Clark NA, Minton CDT, Peck MK, Aarts G (2004) Rapid population decline in red knots: fitness consequences of decreased refueling rates and late arrival in Delaware Bay. Proc Roy Soc Lond B 271:875–882.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Benoit J, Lefebvre C, Hellin D, Maund R (2004) Improving links between science and coastal management: results of a survey to assess state coastal management science and technology needs. Final Report. University of Massachusetts – Boston, MA.Google Scholar
  5. Berksen J, Shuster CN (1999) The horseshoe crab: the battle for a true multiple-use resource. Fisheries 24:6–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bernd-Cohen T, Gordon M (1999) State coastal program effectiveness in protecting natural beaches, dunes, bluffs, and rocky shores. Coast Manage 27:187–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Boesch DF (2001) Science and integrated drainage basin coastal management – Chesapeake Bay and Mississippi Delta. In: von Bodungen B and Turner RK (eds) Science and Integrated Coastal Management. Dahlem Workshop Report 85. Dahlem University Press, Germany, pp.37–50.Google Scholar
  8. Botton ML, Loveland R, Jacobsen T (1988) Beach erosion and geochemical factors: influence of spawning success of horseshoe crabs (Limulus polyphemus) in Delaware bay. Mar Biol 99:325–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Botton ML, Loveland R, Jacobsen T (1994) Site selection by migratory shorebirds in Delaware Bay, and its relationship to beach characteristics and abundance of horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) eggs. Auk 111:605–616.Google Scholar
  10. Burger J, Niles L, Clark KE (1997) Importance of beach, mudflat and marsh habitats to migrant shorebirds on Delaware Bay. Biol Conserv 79:283–292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Burger JL, Jeitner C, Clark K, Niles LJ (2004) The effect of human activities on migrant shorebirds: successful adaptive management. Environ Conserv 31:283–288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cicin-Sain B, Knecht R (1998) Integrated Coastal and Ocean Management: Concepts and Practices. Island Press, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  13. Clark KE, Niles LJ, Burger J (1993) Abundance and distribution of migrant shorebirds in Delaware Bay. Condor 95:694–705.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Dalrymple R, Zaitlin B, Boyd R (1992) Estuarine facies models: conceptual basis and stratigraphic implications. J Sediment Petrol 62:1130–1146.Google Scholar
  15. Davis BC (2003) Inventory, classification, and analysis of special management areas associated with U.S. coastal programs. Coast Manage 31:339–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Delaware Estuary Program (1996) The Delaware estuary: discover its secrets: a management plan for the Delaware estuary. Partnership for the Delaware Estuary, Wilmington, DE.Google Scholar
  17. Eubanks TL, Stoll JR, Kerlinger P (2000) Wildlife-Associated Recreation on the New Jersey Delaware Bayshore: The Economic Impact of Tourism Based on the Horseshoe Crab-Shorebird Migration in New Jersey. Report prepared for the NJ DEP Division of Fish and Wildlife.Google Scholar
  18. Greene K (2002) Beach Nourishment: A Review of the Biological and Physical Impacts. ASMFC Habitat Management Series no. 7. Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  19. Imperial M, Hennesey T (1996) An ecosystem-based approach to managing estuaries: an assessment of the National Estuary Program. Coast Manage 24:115–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jackson NL, Nordstrom KF, Smith DR (2002) Geomorphic-biotic interactions on sandy estuarine beaches. J Coastal Res SI36:414–424.Google Scholar
  21. Jackson NL, Smith DR, Nordstrom KF (2005a) Comparison of sediment characteristics on nourished and un-nourished estuarine beaches in Delaware Bay, New Jersey. Z Geomorphol 141:31–45.Google Scholar
  22. Jackson NL, Nordstrom KF, Smith DR (2005b) Influence of waves and horseshoe crab spawning on beach morphology and sediment characteristics on a sandy estuarine beach, Delaware Bay, New Jersey, USA. Sedimentology 52:1097–1108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jackson NL, Smith DR, Tiyarattanachi R, Nordstrom KF (2007) Use of a small beach nourishment project to enhance habitat suitability for horseshoe crabs. Geomorphology 89:172–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jackson NL, Smith DR, Nordstrom KF (2008) Physical and chemical changes in the foreshore of an estuarine beach: implications for viability and development of horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) eggs. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 355:209–218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Judd JR (1998) The case of missing scales: a commentary on Cox. Polit Geogr 17:29–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Knebel JH, Fletcher CH, Kraft JC (1988) Late Wisconsian – Holocene paleogeography of Delaware Bay; a large coastal plain estuary. Mar Geol 83:115–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Knecht RW, Cicin-Sain B, Fisk GW (1996) Perceptions of the performance of state coastal zone management programs in the United States. Coast Manage 24:141–163.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kraft JC, Allen EA, Belknap DF, John CJ, Maurmeyer EM (1979) Processes and morphologic evolution of an estuarine and coastal barrier system. In: Leatherman SP (ed.) Barrier Islands. Academic Press, New York, pp.149–183.Google Scholar
  29. Lathrop RG, Allen M (2005) Mapping the critical horseshoe crab habitats of Delaware Bay. Rutgers University, Center for Remote Sensing and Data Analysis, New Brunswick, NJ.Google Scholar
  30. Lewis DA, Cooper JAG, Pilkey OH (2005) Fetch limited barrier islands of Chesapeake Bay and Delaware Bay. Southeast Geol 44:1–17.Google Scholar
  31. Manion M, West RA, Unsworth RE (2000) Economic assessment of the Atlantic coast horseshoe crab fishery. Industrial Economics, Inc. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  32. May SK, Dolan R, Hayden BP (1983) Erosion of US shorelines. EOS 64(35):521–523.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) (2006) Tide Tables 2006, East Coast of North and South America. Department of Commerce, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  34. Nelson LS, Weschler LF (1998) Institutional readiness for integrated watershed management: The case of the Maumee River. Soc Sci J 35:565–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nordstrom KF (1989) Erosion control strategies for bay and estuarine beaches. Coast Manage 17:25–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nordstrom KF (2005) Beach nourishment and coastal habitats: Research needs to improve compatibility. Restor Ecol 13:215–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nordstrom KF, Jackson NL (1992) Two-dimensional changes on sandy beaches in meso-tidal estuaries. Z Geomorphol 36:465–478.Google Scholar
  38. Nordstrom KF, Jackson NL, Smith DR, Weber RG (2006) Transport of horseshoe crab eggs by waves and swash on an estuarine beach: Implications for foraging shorebirds. Est Coast Shelf Sci 70:438–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Odell J, Mather ME, Muth RM (2005) A biosocial approach for analyzing environmental conflicts: a case study of horseshoe crab allocation. Bioscience 55:735–748.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Olsen SB (2003) Frameworks and indicators for assessing progress in integrated coastal management initiatives. Ocean Coast Manage 46:347–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Peterson CH, Bishop MJ (2005) Assessing the environmental impacts of beach nourishment. Bioscience 55:887–896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Smith DR, Pooler PS, Loveland RE, Botton ML, Michels SE, Weber RG, Carter DB (2002) Horseshoe crab (Limulus polyphemus) reproductive activity on Delaware bay beaches: Interactions with beach characteristics. J Coast Res 18:730–740.Google Scholar
  43. Sullivan JK (1994) Habitat status and trends in the Delaware estuary. Coast Manage 22:49–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Thieler ER, Hammar-Klose ES (1999) National assessment of coastal vulnerability to sea-level rise: preliminary results for the US Atlantic coast. U.S.Geological Survey Open-File Report 99–593. Woods Hole, MA.Google Scholar
  45. Turner RK, Lorenzoni I, Beaumont N, Bateman IJ, Langford IH, McDonald AL (1998) Coastal management for sustainable development: analyzing environmental and socio-economic changes on the UK coast. Geogr J 164:269–281.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Walls EA, Berkson J, Smith SA (2002) The horseshoe crab, Limulus polyphemus: 200 million years of existence, 100 years of study. Rev Fish Sci 10:39–73.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Chemistry and Environmental ScienceNew Jersey Institute of TechnologyNewarkUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Marine and Coastal SciencesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

Personalised recommendations