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Major Habitats & Plant Communities of the Barnegat Bay Ecosystem

The Barnegat Bay ecosystem is comprised of a wide diversity of vegetation from coastal dune communities and low-lying estuarine and freshwater wetlands to uplands of pine-oak forests.  All of these communities have been affected in some way by human development and related activities.Salt marshes at Cattus Island County Park

Important Barnegat Bay habitats and plant communities

Barrier Islands-Coastal Dune Scrub
Undeveloped stretches of the barrier island complex consist of extensive primary and secondary dune habitat along the ocean side and salt marsh and tidal flats on the backside of the barrier. Island Beach State Park provides the most extensive example of the natural vegetation typical of New Jersey’s barrier islands and spits...(click to read more)

Maritime Forest
Along the edges of the Barnegat Bay watershed, remnants of the Maritime Forest plant community have survived intense development pressures from as early as colonial times when substantial areas of Maritime Forest were cleared for coastal farms and homesteads...(click to read more) 

Submerged Aquatic Vegetation 
Benthic macroalgae and vascular plants (seagrasses) comprise the submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) community of the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor estuarine system.  Loveland, et al. (1984) recorded 116 species of benthic algae in Barnegat Bay, with the dominant forms being Ulva lactuca, Gracilaria tikvahiae, Codium fragile, Zostera marina, Ceramium fastigiatum, and Agardhiella subulata...(click to read on) 

Tidal Wetlands
The barrier island and mainland shores of Barnegat Bay are fringed with coastal wetlands whose vegetation form and character are largely controlled by the tidal regime and salinity of neighboring bay waters. The saltwater wetlands are subject to high salt concentrations (up to 28-30 ppt), are regularly inundated by the tide, and are typically flat meadowlands dominated by Spartina species. In these tidal wetlands, Spartina alterniflora, S. patens, Juncus gerardi, and Salicornia virginica are the characteristic forms of a New England type salt marsh community (Nixon, 1982; Tiner, 1985)....(click to read more)

Upland Forests and Freshwater WetlandsUpper tributary of the Toms River in Jackson Township
The western shores of Barnegat Bay directly border the region of New Jersey known as the Pine Barrens or Pinelands. Situated on the sandy, acid soils of New Jersey's outer coastal plain, the Pine Barrens comprise a landscape of upland pine-oak forests interlaced with a network of "tea-water" streams, dense swamps and ericaceous bogs.  The Pine Barrens supports more than 500 species of animals and 800 species and varieties of plants (McCormick and Forman, 1979; Buchholz and Good, 1982; Good and Good, 1984)...(click to read more) 

Take the Barnegat Bay Watershed and Estuary Habitat Tour online
 -- courtesy of Rutgers University's Grant F. Walton Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis.

Related Links

Natural Resource Education Foundation of New Jersey 
New Jersey Pinelands Commission
Pinelands Preservation Alliance
"Scientific Characterization of the Barnegat Bay-Little Egg Harbor Estuary and Watershed" (September 2001)