Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Protecting Vernal Ponds

Vernal Pond BarriersThe NJDEP Division of Parks and Forestry has launched a pilot project to install barriers to protect ecologically sensitive intermittent ponds in Wharton State Forest from damage caused by illegal use of off-road vehicles.

Vernal or intermittent ponds and pools are shallow depressions found throughout our state that periodically dry out as the temperature rises, rainfall varies and the ground water table fluctuates.

These areas are ecologically important because they provide breeding habitat for many of the region’s unique amphibian and plant species.

Fish that would otherwise eat the eggs and larvae of many amphibian species cannot populate these ponds due to their fluctuations.


In the Pinelands, for example, species such as the Pine Barrens tree frog are found in few places outside the Pinelands.

The initial phase of the project in the Pinelands targeted four ponds, as part of a broader effort to protect ecologically sensitive areas in the 125,000-acre state forest. Wharton, by far the largest unit of the State Park System, is located in the heart of the globally unique Pinelands National Reserve, and covers parts of Atlantic, Burlington and Camden counties.

Some off-road vehicle enthusiasts run their vehicles through these ponds both during their wet and dry periods. In the process, their tires leave deep tracks in the ponds and destroy plants that fringe them.

Eggs

Organizations involved in the Wharton project were the Pinelands Preservation Alliance, Iron in the Pines, Open Trails NJ, NJPineBarrens.com, the South Jersey Botany Group, the New Jersey Trail Riders Association, South Jersey Geocachers, the Gossamer Hunting Club and the Whitesbog Historic Trust.


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