Barnegat Bay Habitats and Plant Communities

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. 

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. Learn 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. Learn 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. Learn more >

Tidal Wetlands

Tidal salt marshes provide essential ecosystem services to the coastal communities of Barnegat Bay. These areas are the transition zones in estuaries, providing nursery, forage, and nesting habitat for fish and other wildlife, and display greater complexity and primary production than other nearby habitats. Tidal salt marshes also provide flood protection, water quality improvements and biogeochemical cycling, all of which benefit the surrounding communities. A 2012 study valued the ecosystem services of saltwater wetlands in Barnegat Bay at $155 million per year!  Learn more >

Upland Forests and Freshwater Wetlands

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). Learn more >

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)

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