New Jersey

Southern Pine Barrens

The Southern Pine Barrens of New Jersey is comprised of mostly oak-pine forests in the southern portion of the state. This region is characterized by well-drained loamy sand which supports a lower pine-to-oak ratio and a distinct avian community. In addition to the oak-pine forests, this site also includes more typical coastal habitats such as non-tidal wetlands, open water and riparian areas.

The southern portion of the Pine Barrens also supports extensive hardwood swamps and early successional habitats including the typical Pine Barrens scrub-shrub community and grasslands. The land comprising the Southern Pine Barrens serves as an ecological connector between the pitch pine forests of the core Pine Barrens and the vast wetlands of the Delaware Bayshores.  

Threats to the Pine Barrens
The major threats facing the southern portion of the Pine Barrens include residential, commercial and industrial development. While large portions of the Southern Pine Barrens are protected, fragmentation and development of adjacent privately-owned lands degrade habitat and water quality. Nearby sand and gravel operations create road widening and the construction of power lines increase habitat fragmentation. The Cohansey Aquifer, which contains an estimated 17 trillion gallons of pure water, is found in the Pine Barrens. This shallow aquifer is often found near the surface, producing wetlands, cedar swamps, and streams.  The aquifer is especially vulnerable to the risk of pollution, since its permeable soil is not readily capable of filtering or degrading contaminants. If the deep recharge system in this area was to become contaminated, it would take centuries to flush it sufficiently to return it to clean groundwater quality.

Lakes and Rivers of the Southern Pine Barrens
Miles of rivers course through the scenic Pinelands. Most feed the productive bays of southern New Jersey.  The major watercourses are the Mullica, Great Egg Harbor, and Maurice Rivers. The Great Egg and Maurice are designated wild and scenic rivers, and the Mullica traverses the Preservation Area of the Pines.  Lakes are man-made rather than natural phenomena and have generally been created by damming of streams and other wetlands in the distant past. The best known lakes are Lake Lenape, Harrisville Lake, and Lake Oswego.

The Southern Pine Barrens supports an impressive diversity of avian communities. The large forested tracts support breeding populations of several raptor species including state-endangered breeding Bald Eagles, state-threatened Barred Owls, Cooper’s Hawks, and Red Tailed Hawks as well as the state’s most impressive wintering Bald Eagle population. This region supplies crucial habitat throughout spring and fall migrations to land birds and raptors. In addition to the avian communities present, there is also an array of mammals, amphibians and reptiles that thrive in the unique ecosystem of the southern Pine Barrens. Species of particular interest include the Tiger Salamander, the Spring Peeper, the Pine Barrens Treefrog, the Box turtle and the 5-lined Skink.

Low, dense forests of pine and oak, ribbons of cedar and hardwood swamps bordering drainage courses, pitch pine lowlands, and bogs and marshes combine to produce an expansive vegetative mosaic unsurpassed in the Northeast. Here can be found 850 species of plants, including rare plants such as the curly grass fern, broom crowberry, and pink lady slipper. The region contains an unusual range overlaps where species of 109 southern plants and 14 northern plants reach their respective geographic limits.

The Nature Conservancy maintains several nature preserves within the Southern Pine Barrens.


Contact the Delaware Bayshores office at (609) 861-0600 for directions to our nature preserves in the Southern Pine Barrens region.


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