, Volume 47, Issue 3, pp 284–297 | Cite as

Social–ecological system responses to Hurricane Sandy in the Hudson-Raritan Estuary

  • Megan Rothenberger
  • Andrea Armstrong
  • Mia Spitz


The impact of Hurricane Sandy on the Hudson-Raritan estuary (HRE) provided a valuable case study for exploring interactions between long-term environmental degradation, new climatic disturbance stressors, and human behavioral responses. We extend previous research on the ecological effects of major storms to compare water quality and biological parameters three years before and three years after Hurricane Sandy and consider how ecosystem shifts relate to anglers’ perceptions. Results indicate that water clarity and nutrients returned to pre-storm conditions in about one year, while shifts in the biological community, including a significant increase in harmful algal species and declines in zooplankton and Atlantic menhaden, persisted for multiple years, and anglers continued to fish amidst ecosystem decline. Biotic recovery time in the HRE was longer than reports for other shallow estuaries frequently disturbed by hurricanes. Ecological and social responses suggest that the post-storm regime shifts and continued fishing pressure could further environmental degradation.


Estuaries Environmental degradation Hurricane Sandy Fisheries Plankton Water quality 



Funding support for this research was provided by the Lafayette College Department of Biology. We thank Wayne Leibel in Lafayette’s Biology Department for providing comments on earlier versions of this manuscript, Phil Auerbach for technical field support, Penn State Analytical laboratories for total iron analysis, and Captain Mick Trzaska, captain and owner of the CRT II, for transporting us to our sampling sites. Tessa Broholm, Samantha Gleich, Erika Hernandez, Virginia Hoyt, Juliana Ventresca, and Karolina Vera assisted with water sampling and nutrient analysis. We thank two anonymous reviewers for counsel on the manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 24 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Megan Rothenberger
    • 1
  • Andrea Armstrong
    • 2
  • Mia Spitz
    • 1
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentLafayette CollegeEastonUSA
  2. 2.Environmental Science and Studies ProgramLafayette CollegeEastonUSA

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