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Long-term Environmental-monitoring Program

In the early 1990's, the Pinelands Commission initiated a long-term environmental-monitoring program with the ultimate goal of evaluating the ecological consequences of the Comprehensive Management Plan for the Pinelands National Reserve.  The main objectives of this program are to characterize the effect of existing land-use patterns on aquatic and wetland resources and to monitor long-term changes in these resources.  Individual components of the program include watershed assessments, pinelands-wide water-quality monitoring, stream-flow monitoring, forest-plot and intermittent-pond water-level monitoring, and annual-anuran surveys.

Watershed Assessments

As part of the environmental-monitoring program, Commission scientists sampled water quality and surveyed vegetation, fish, and anuran (frog and toad) communities throughout four major Pinelands watersheds, including the Mullica River, Rancocas Creek, Great Egg Harbor River, and Barnegat Bay watersheds.  A brief summary of the results of the watershed assessments, individual watershed reports, and associated Pinelands-wide geospatial-data layers are available at Watershed Studies.

Staff scientists are currently completing a second round of water-quality and biological surveys in each of the four major watersheds.  The Mullica River Watershed was surveyed in 2007 and 2008 and the Rancocas Creek Watershed was surveyed in 2009.  The Great Egg Harbor River Watershed will be surveyed in 2010 and the Barnegat Bay Watershed in 2011.  Similar to the initial watershed assessments, the second round of surveys include water-quality monitoring (pH and specific conductance) and vegetation, fish, and anuran sampling in streams and impoundments throughout the region.  A comprehensive report describing the status of all four watersheds will be compiled after the second round of surveys is completed.

Click here to be directed to an interactive map of the sites.

Map of water quality and vegetation, fish, and anuran (frog and toad) community long-term environmental-monitoring sites throughout four major Pinelands watersheds.  Click the map for larger view.

Pinelands-wide Water-quality Monitoring

A separate network of 47 water-quality sites distributed throughout the four watersheds was established to serve as benchmark or reference sites.  Specific conductance and pH are monitored at each site in the network.  The 47 sites span the range of water-quality characteristics encountered in each watershed during the initial watershed assessments.  Because the water-quality sampling associated with individual watershed studies is completed on different years, this separate network, which is monitored each year, will be used to calibrate water-quality conditions for the comprehensive assessment of all four watersheds.  Five additional stream sites located in drainages impacted by the May 2007 wildfire are also sampled along with the benchmark sites.

Click here to be directed to an interactive map of the sites.

Map of 47 Pinelands-wide water-quality monitoring sites and five additional stream sites in the four major Pinelands watersheds.  Click the map for larger view.

Stream-flow Monitoring

The Commission and the U. S. Geological Survey (USGS) continue to implement two cooperative stream-gaging programs.  The Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority funded project is designed to determine whether wastewater transfers from the southern Camden County area are affecting stream discharge in portions of the Mullica River Watershed.  A similar stream-gaging project is being conducted at five stream stations in the Upper Great Egg Harbor River Watershed in cooperation with the Monroe Municipal Utilities Authority.  The analytical method used to assess trends in stream flow is based on the approach presented in Dow (1999). Changes in base flow at the monitoring sites are assessed relative to flows at index sites.

Water-level Monitoring

Water levels are monitored in shallow-observation wells in forest plots and intermittent coastal-plain ponds.  The forest plots represent an upland-to-wetland gradient and are characterized as upland pine-oak, pitch pine lowland, pine-hardwood lowland, hardwood swamp, or cedar swamp.  Water levels have been measured monthly in 45 forest plots since 2004.  With the exception of one year, water levels at fifteen of the pitch pine lowland forest plots have been monitored since 1987.  Water levels are also measured monthly in 29 intermittent coastal-plain ponds.  Water levels have been monitored at 14 of the ponds since 1996 and at the other 15 ponds since 2004.  Battery operated continuous pond-water-level recorders have been installed in two of the ponds.

Click here to view water-level data for the 34 intermittent coastal-plain ponds.

Click here to view water-level data for the 45 forest plots.

Water levels are measured in shallow observation wells installed in forest plots (left) and in intermittent coastal-plain ponds (right).

Click here to be directed to an interactive map of the sites.

Map of 45 forest plot and 34 intermittent coastal-plain pond water-level monitoring sites throughout the Pinelands.  Click the map for larger view.

Annual Anuran-survey Ponds

Amphibians have been declining globally since at least the late 1950's and early 1960's.  Possible reasons for amphibian declines vary and include ultraviolet radiation, aquatic pollution, habitat loss, landscape fragmentation, disease and infections, and the introduction of non-native amphibians and predatory fish.  Because of the wide-spread nature of these declines, Commission scientists established 20 long-term monitoring stations to assess temporal changes in the status of anurans.  Annual anuran-vocalization surveys have been conducted at these 20 sites since 1996.  The 20 ponds were selected as long-term monitoring stations because they are located on the western side of the Mullica River Watershed along the interface between forest land and developed and farmed landscapes.  Since 1996, eleven frog species and one toad species have been heard calling from the 20 ponds.  Eighteen ponds serve as breeding habitat for the state-threatened Pine Barrens treefrog.  Fourteen of the ponds have been intensively surveyed for adult and larval frogs and toads during a previous Commission study (Bunnell and Zampella 1999) and the vegetation present at 13 of these ponds has been described in detail (Zampella and Laidig 2003).  Frog-larval development and metamorphosis was monitored at three of the ponds as part of the Kirkwood-Cohansey Project.

Advertisement calls made by the southern leopard frog (left) and Pine Barrens treefrog (right) are used to attract mates for breeding.

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Pinelands Commission
15 Springfield Road
New Lisbon, NJ 08064