It has been another highly successful year for the New Jersey Audubon Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC) that has seen habitat restoration projects benefiting wildlife species all over the State. On September 13, 2013 the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) hosted the CSC’s annual meeting at their offices in Trenton. Filling in for NJDEP Commissioner Bob Martin, was Acting Deputy Commissioner Michele N. Siekerka, Esq., who applauded members of the Council for their commitment to ecological sustainability and praised the importance of the CSC initiative that affords the private sector an opportunity to take leadership roles in conservation stewardship.
The meeting was presided over by Co-Chairmen, Mr. Ralph LaRossa, President of Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) and Mr. Keith Campbell, Chairman of the Board of Mannington Mills, Inc. Mr. Campbell recently accepted the position of CSC Co-Chairman after the retirement of former Co-Chair Mr. Dennis Bone in 2012. Headquartered in Salem, New Jersey, and founded in 1915 by his great grandfather John Boston Campbell, Mannington Mills is now one of the largest flooring manufacturers in the world. It is also the only North American-based company engaged in the manufacturing and marketing of residential and commercial resilient, laminate, hardwood and porcelain tile floors, as well as commercial carpet and rubber. Mannington Mills is also recipient of two Governors Environmental Excellence Awards and is a recognized leader of sustainable practices.
The CSC also recognized and expressed our sincere thanks to former CSC Co-Chairman, Mr. Dennis Bone. In 2012, Mr. Bone retired as President of Verizon's New Jersey area and had presided over the CSC as Co-Chairman since its inception in 2007. New Jersey Audubon is grateful for his willingness to co-chair the CSC at its beginning stages and provide leadership over the years to assure its success. Mr. Bone’s tenure as CSC Co-chair brought with it great growth, on-the ground conservation, and recognition of CSC members and NJ Audubon. Below is just a snap-shot of CSC achievements under Mr. Bone’s tenure:
· Since its inception, the CSC has increased its membership from 11 to 18 members.
· Since its inspection a total of 22 projects encompassing over 420 acres have been completed.
· Within those 22 projects, habitat for 21 different NJ listed species (Threatened or Endangered Species) are being managed for. (This does not include State Species of Special Concern with which there are many that occur on these project sites)
· Several projects that had also involved nest box installations and monitoring have fledged over 3,360 new birds (combination of purple martin, tree swallow, American kestrel and eastern bluebird).
· Two CSC projects (Verizon and Mannington Mills) have won the Governor's Environmental Excellence Award in the Healthy Ecosystem and Healthy and Sustainable Businesses categories, respectively.
· One CSC project, New Jersey American Water, has won the New Jersey Business and Industry Environmental Quality Award.
To see current summary information regarding individual CSC Member Projects go to: http://www.njaudubon.org/Portals/10/Conservation/PDF/2013CSCBrochure.pdf
Some have suggested as a result of the editorial focused on the Healthy Forest Act that was posted in the Star-Ledger (http://bit.ly/1949A92) and Asbury Park Press (http://on.app.com/17jurmx) on 7August 2013 that New Jersey Audubon stands to gain financially as a result of passage of the Act. These suggestions are not true or well founded, and are attempts at weakening support for the Act and the efforts that many have made to restore New Jersey’s forests to a healthy condition.
New Jersey Audubon holds a Forest Stewardship Council Group Certificate, and has not generated profit while helping partners meet the FSC standards on their land under our certificate. New Jersey Audubon is a nonprofit and therefore all the money that the organization raises is used to support the implementation of conservation projects and programs. New Jersey Audubon staff raised the money to pay for FSC related audits and certification costs, covering New Jersey Audubon property and the state’s Sparta Wildlife Management Area. The funding sources come from competitive grant programs and private individuals who believe in and financially support the work that we do.
Regarding certification, New Jersey Audubon does not have a monopoly on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification in NJ. Anyone or any group can go through the process to obtain a FSC Group Certificate or FSC Certification. The Nature Conservancy is a FSC Group Certificate holder, but they have chosen not to engage in FSC Certification in NJ, at least to date. The State of NJ could choose to obtain FSC Certification directly and pay for their own audits, as has been done by the State of Pennsylvania. Most state entities that are FSC certified have their own certificate. We don’t expect that the DEP would look to NJ Audubon or other NGOs to handle the certification process for state lands. Even if the state wanted to partner on FSC Certification, we at New Jersey Audubon don’t envision taking on FSC Certification at the scale of all state forest lands. The inclusion of the Sparta Wildlife Management Area in NJ Audubon’s group certificate was done as a demonstration project in order to provide the state with some experience and understanding of the FSC process.
New Jersey Audubon continues to support the Healthy Forest Act and efforts to improve the condition of New Jersey forests. We hold this position because it is the right and necessary thing to do to protect and conserve wildlife habitat, air quality, water quality, mitigate against climate change, as well as and in addition to providing numerous recreation opportunities for the citizens of the state. New Jersey Audubon’s mission is to foster environmental awareness and a conservation ethic among New Jersey's citizens; protect New Jersey's birds, mammals, other animals, and plants, especially endangered and threatened species; and to promote the preservation of New Jersey's valuable natural habitats.
Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L) partnered with New Jersey Audubon and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife to help the State threatened American Kestrel . This successful collaboration has resulted in the birth of two kestrel hatchlings at the South Branch Wildlife Management Area in 2013.
“JCP&L is proud to lend our support on this important effort,” said Jim Fakult, JCP&L president. “By returning habitat to wildlife, we are working together to improve ecosystems in the state of New Jersey. Our ongoing participation on New Jersey Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council illustrates JCP&L’s continuing interest in having an active role in protecting the environment in the communities we serve.”
JCP&L teamed with New Jersey Audubon and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife to band the kestrel chicks for future study of migratory patterns at the South Branch Wildlife Management Area. Created in 2006, the 422-acre site has been identified as a critical area for protecting nesting populations of threatened and endangered grassland birds. JCP&L helped restore the area by removing and recycling old electric wire, transformers and utility poles left by a former owner, and recently worked with New Jersey Audubon and New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife to install the nest boxes where the kestrel chicks were born.
“New Jersey Audubon congratulates JCP&L for the habitat enhancement work they performed as part of the Corporate Stewardship Council,” said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director—North Jersey for New Jersey Audubon. “The birth of these kestrel chicks is a shining example of how effective collaboration leads to successful conservation efforts.”
Kestrels perform an important ecosystem function by helping to manage a wide variety of pests, including mice and insects. Unlike other predatory birds, kestrels nest in holes they find in tree trunks, but they do respond well to nest boxes. They have been placed on New Jersey’s threatened species list due to a lack of suitable habitat and the scarcity of nesting sites. For more information about kestrels and how to build a kestrel nest box please see http://www.nj.com/warrenreporter/index.ssf/2013/07/warren_county_wildlife_the_ame.html
As a member of the New Jersey Audubon Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC), the Johnson & Johnson Skillman, NJ campus has become the first corporate site in the state to participate in New Jersey Audubon’s “Jersey Grown” S.A.V.E.TM (Support Agricultural Viability and the Environment) initiative, by growing black-oil sunflowers on site. The S.A.V.E.TM initiative, which promotes the production of agricultural products that are economically and ecologically sustainable, earned a 2011 New Jersey Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award for Land Conservation.
The sunflowers grown at the Johnson & Johnson site will be harvested for birdseed that will be sold through the New Jersey Audubon S.A.V.E.TM brand label and are certified “Jersey Grown” sunflower birdseed. The program benefits New Jersey’s agricultural community and the environment, because it is grown locally thereby eliminating the need for extensive use of fossil fuels in transit, thus reducing its carbon footprint. Additionally the initiative illustrates the seed’s significance to the farmers’ revenue stream as it provides direct access to a local niche market for a crop that offers them a greater price per acre than traditional grain crops, most notably corn and soybeans. However, it is equally, if not more, significant to the birds and New Jersey Audubon’s conservation mission which for every 5 acres planted in sunflowers, New Jersey Audubon manages and maintains 1-acre of early successional habitat for threatened and endangered species.
"We are so excited to have Johnson & Johnson and Frank Drift of Dutchtown Nurseries be a part of this innovative program," said John Parke, Stewardship Project Director of NJ Audubon-North Region. "It is the first time a CSC member has been able to combine conservation objectives with agricultural viability on their own campus.”
With the S.A.V.E.TM initiative underway at Johnson & Johnson, the company and NJA have entered a 10-year agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to implement a habitat restoration project at the Skillman, NJ facility. This agreement is through the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, which has tailored the project to the site’s geography. Specifically, the site is a prime location for restoring early successional habitat, such as native grasslands, scrub-shrub fields, and pollinator meadows, along with emergent wetlands enhancements.
This habitat restoration will benefit numerous migratory bird species such as: American woodcock, field sparrow, willow flycatcher, brown thrasher, blue-winged warbler, prairie warbler, indigo bunting, as well as state-listed species such as bobolink, American kestrel and eastern meadowlark. Additionally many bird nest boxes will be erected on the site as part of the habitat enhancement.
"It is the location of the Johnson & Johnson site in the Central Piedmont Plains, (a unique region of New Jersey rich in both a broad diversity of wildlife and natural habitat), which makes this project even more special!” said Parke. “We commend Johnson & Johnson’s outstanding commitment to sustaining native wildlife populations while promoting biodiversity and local agriculture for the community at large."
“Through their interest in good corporate land stewardship, Johnson and Johnson is helping water quality, providing habitat to pollinators, and providing nesting and foraging opportunities for a variety of migratory birds that have vulnerable populations.” said Brian Marsh, Private Land Biologist with USFWS. “Being dedicated to relatively simple measures, such as converting mowed lawn immediately around ponds to buffers of unmowed grasses and native shrubs, can make a big difference to wildlife and water quality by attracting a variety of songbirds while making the area less attractive to Canada geese.” added Marsh.
“Johnson & Johnson is honored to be part of NJ Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council and the S.A.V.E™ initiative in partnership with NJ Audubon and USFWS,” said Brain K. Boyd, Johnson & Johnson Vice President of Worldwide Environment, Health & Safety. “Our mission is to improve the health and well-being of families everywhere. To fulfill this goal, we must protect the environments in which we work and live, as a healthy planet and a healthy community go hand in hand. This is an excellent opportunity to preserve the region’s beauty, resources and wildlife for future generations to enjoy.”
Jersey Central Power and Light (JCP&L) initiated its second critical habitat restoration project as part of their participation in NJ Audubon's Corporate Stewardship Council (CSC), at the Yards Creek Scout Reservation. Volunteering the use of personnel and heavy equipment, JCP&L provided a key component in removing non-native invasive vegetation that had severely impacted numerous acres of woodland and young forest habitat vital for the survival of numerous wildlife species. This area of restoration was considered “ground-zero” for an infestation of Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis), that started out as a planted ornamental, but left uncontrolled over the years had become aggressively wide spread, overtaking native plants and disrupting important ecosystem processes.
“New Jersey Audubon is encountering Chinese wisteria more and more across the state and it is clearly emerging as one of the worst invasive vegetation threats to our forests.” said John Parke, New Jersey Audubon Stewardship Project Director-North Region. “The non-native wisteria is long-lived perennial, that can tolerate a variety of soil and moisture regimes and it moves not just across the forest floor, but up the canopy as well, strangling, shading out, and displacing native vegetation. This leads to an accelerated death of large trees encouraging further growth and spread of the wisteria.” said Parke. “Once established in an area, wisteria patches can potentially cover several acres and completely change natural plant community development, which directly impacts the habitat requirements for certain wildlife species.”
The Boys Scouts of America Central New Jersey Council’s Yards Creek Scout Reservation in Blairstown Township lies in the US Fish and Wildlife’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Highlands/Middle Delaware River Focus Area and abuts Worthington State Forest. The area of Worthington State Forest and Kittatinny Mountain Ridge, that the site is part of, is also a designated Important Bird Area (IBA) of New Jersey, because of its important migratory stop over and breeding habitat. The region’s mix of largely contiguous forest and early successional habitat provides critical breeding habitat for several state endangered and threatened raptors, as well as supporting consistently high numbers of breeding state special species of concern, like Cerulean Warbler, and Regional Responsibility species, including Wood Thrush, Hooded Warbler, Gray Catbird, Eastern Wood-Peewee, Black and White Warbler and Scarlet Tanager.
“After habitat destruction, invasive species, like Chinese wisteria, are the next biggest threat to native plant communities.” said Brain Marsh, Private Lands Biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). “This non-native wisteria does not have natural insects predators or diseases here in North America to keep its growth in check, so the plant can become wide spread pretty quickly. It is a direct threat to biodiversity and ecosystem stability on natural areas by negatively impacting wildlife dependent on native vegetation for forage, nesting, and cover.” said Marsh. “The USFWS together with the Boy Scouts of America, JCP&L and NJ Audubon have entered into a partnership under the USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program to remove and control the wisteria from the area and ultimately will restore natural wildlife communities on the site for migratory and breeding bird habitat.”
"We are pleased that JCP&L's ongoing engagement with New Jersey Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council enabled the preservation of a vital habitat at the Yards Creek Scout Reservation," said Don Lynch, JCP&L president. "Our employees embraced the opportunity to work with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the Boy Scouts of America and New Jersey Audubon on helping to return the area to its natural condition."
"By partnering with JCP&L and USFWS through New Jersey Audubon’s Corporate Stewardship Council, we were finally able to better address this destructive invasive non-native plant species," said Central New Jersey Council BSA Staff Advisor Tom Leitz. "This partnership will go a long way in promoting a healthy forest, to insure that it is around for the future youth to enjoy!"
By Jean Lynch, Photos by Jean Lynch
Today marked NJ Audubon’s third Just flip ‘em!® walk on open beaches in the North Cape May area. Since we’re just a few days past Saturday’s full moon, the high and low tides have been pretty extreme, and large numbers of horseshoe crabs have been spawning.
We got on the beach around 7:15 a.m. When we looked south, we saw dozens of horseshoe crabs making their way back down to the water, and a local resident was still busy turning them over. So we headed north, where hundreds of horseshoe crabs were still stranded upside down. We quickly covered about a mile and a half of beach, walking, counting, and flipping crabs. We reached a natural ending point when we got to a beach that was already being cleared by three other residents.
In May and June of each year, especially around the times of the full moon, beachgoers on the Delaware Bay may notice large numbers of horseshoe crabs that have been flipped over on their backs as the tide goes out. Horseshoe crabs that are unable to right themselves risk death from exposure to extreme heat, from desiccation, or from predators such as gulls. By flipping the horseshoe crabs over and allowing them to walk back down to the water, a person strolling on the beach can allow a horseshoe crab to continue its life cycle. It takes about ten years for a horseshoe crab to reach maturity and be able to reproduce; very few of those eggs will ever become adult horseshoe crabs. Saving a mature horseshoe crab is a fun and easy step that beachgoers can take to contribute to conservation at the Delaware Bay.
The Just flip ‘em!® campaign was started in 1998 by Dover, Delaware-based ERDG, a non-profit wildlife conservation organization whose primary focus is the conservation of the world’s four remaining horseshoe crab species. The correct way to flip a horseshoe crab is to push it over from its side, to avoid injuring the tail. They need the tail for navigation, and the tail is the main tool that they have for turning themselves back over on their own.
The Delaware Bay is the world’s largest spawning ground for horseshoe crabs and one of the most significant stopover sites worldwide for migrating shorebirds, which rely on the horseshoe crab’s eggs to fuel them on their long migration north. Due mainly to overharvesting for bait in the 1980s through the early 2000s, Delaware Bay horseshoe crab populations have seen steep declines, and with them so have populations of migrating shorebirds. A moratorium on horseshoe crab harvesting for bait has been in effect in New Jersey since 2008.
By the end of today’s walk, we had flipped 764 crabs! One of them had been tagged by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and we submitted its location online. Soon we’ll find out where that crab was originally tagged and released.
If you are walking on the beach and come across an upside-down horseshoe crab, you can help too! Please follow this guidance:
1. Turn over the horseshoe crab gently by its side. Don't hold it by the tail, as this could injure the horseshoe crab. They look a little scary, but they don't bite!
2. NJ state law forbids the removal of horseshoe crabs or their parts from the beach.
3. If you see shorebirds on the beach or near the horseshoe crabs, give them plenty of room and avoid scaring them away.
And have fun giving our local Delaware Bay wildlife a hand.
Whether or not you own a one-acre or 200-acre wooded lot, you may have experienced significant forest disturbance as a result of Hurricane Sandy. While catastrophic events such as high winds, ice storms or fire are a natural part of shaping our forests, as a landowner it can be difficult to accept the post-storm forest and the urge to clean up can be overwhelming. To a degree, debris removal, removing partially fallen trees, and filling in big holes in the ground can aid in forest restoration. NJ Audubon suggests considering a combination of clean-up and “hands-off” to achieve a more natural environment that provides new wildlife habitat and encourages vegetation re-growth.
Recommendation 1: Retain Some Coarse Woody Debris
Coarse woody debris (CWD) includes fallen trees and large branches that are on the forest floor as a result of Hurricane Sandy. Some amount of CWD should be left as is in the forest as it has both wildlife and nutritive value in terms of organic matter inputs and energy/nutrient flows. CWD has habitat benefits for a wide variety of wildlife from insects to large mammals by serving as nesting, denning, foraging or cover habitat. Accordingly, CWD of various sizes (diameter and length) and at various stages of decay are an important part of the forest component and supporting a variety of wildlife.
The exact amount of retained woody debris is difficult to quantify and not well understood. In natural landscapes, CWD may be clumped or randomly distributed, typical of forests impacted by a range of events from isolated disease to catastrophic disturbances such as wind throw. Leaving a small amount of CWD in each storm impacted area would be a good way to mimic the natural presentation of CWD in the forest.
Recommendation 2: Retain Some Brush Piles
Where CWD would be individual logs and large branches lying on the forest floor, brush piles would be areas of smaller branches and storm debris that are piled or clumped together. Brush piles are important wildlife habitat providing nesting and cover, particularly to small mammals and birds. In a natural forest environment “brush piles” may be the result of variable sized branches fallen from trees. Like CWD, they may be randomly distributed about the forest. Creating small brush piles creates microhabitat that is not only important to wildlife, but provides some level of protection for new vegetation.
Recommendation 3: Retention of Pit and Mound topography
A hallmark of old, natural forests is the presence of pit and mound topography. This type of typography is the result of uprooted trees, creating both a pit where the root system formerly was, and a mound where the root system is now exposed. Similar to CWD, important wildlife habitat can be created as a result of uprooted trees. The pit, depending on soil conditions, may retain water, creating a vernal pool, ideal for amphibians and macroinvertebrates. Additionally, the mounds are important sites for tree regeneration. Small seedlings may begin to appear on the mound and, given the elevation off the forest floor, these seedlings are somewhat protected from predation thus allowing this new age class of trees to develop in the forest. Rather than cutting all trees such that the root mass falls back, pit and mound topography can be retained in combination with retention of CWD.
Recommendation 4: Replanting with Compatible Native Species
Looking to the benefit of a catastrophic event such as Hurricane Sandy, we now have an opportunity to create some diversity of age classes in the forest. A diverse age class is important not only for overall forest health, but provides a more heterogeneous habitat that can support a wider diversity of wildlife dependent on trees of different densities and sizes. A forest with this structure also encourages growth of native saplings. Perhaps consider increasing forest diversity with compatible native vegetation of various sizes to assist in forest restoration. If planting in small canopy gaps (two or three trees in size) tree species that are at least tolerant of partial shade should be used. Soil and moisture conditions are also important when evaluating what species are appropriate to replant. For example, in small gaps with moist soils, black gum and swamp white oak might be good choices, while hickory and white oak could be planted in drier locations. For larger openings where more light is available, tulip poplar, red oak, black or pin oak might be added into the mix. In addition understory vegetation, such as maple-leaf viburnum, spice bush or witch-hazel may be nice additions to the forest. Plantings can be done in conjunction with retention of CWD, brush piles and pit and mound topography to help provide some level of protection from browse.
Recommendation 5: Maintaining Important Ecological Components
Some of the trees that Sandy affected the most in NJ forests were coniferous, many of which served an important role for a variety of wildlife. In southern New Jersey, pockets of the already rare Atlantic White Cedar (AWC) were toppled during the storm. AWC is considered a globally rare forest type that harbors some very particular wildlife. Ensuring that these forests regenerate with cedar, and not other species such as red maple, will be critical to the continued existence of the animals and insects that depend on AWC for some part of their life cycle. In the hardwood dominated forests of northern New Jersey, hundreds of acres of evergreens were affected by the storm. While the evergreens here only compromise a small percentage of the overall forest, they do provide an element of diversity that would otherwise be lacking. Many of the affected trees are within plantations of non-indigenous species that were established during the days of the Civilian Conservation Corps. While some might argue that a species such as Norway spruce is not native to New Jersey, and is therefore no great loss because it wasn’t supposed to be here, it is important to remember that these evergreens still provide critical habitat for some wildlife species. For example, Norway spruce stands many be the last stronghold for red squirrel populations in north jersey, and many owls prefer nesting in spruce in lieu of nearby hardwoods. Given the fact that for a variety of reasons we continue to see declines in the presence of native conifers that have historically been part of the northern NJ forests, it is extremely important that we work to restore some of these losses. In the case of some non-native plantations blown over in the storm, we are presented with an opportunity to restore them with an evergreen species that is better suited to our area and still maintain that diversity.
New Jersey Audubon’s Stewardship staff have been working to restore maritime forest in Cape May Point State Park since 2011, and much of the success can be attributed to the hard work of dedicated volunteers. On a cold, rainy Saturday in April, a group of volunteers joined NJ Audubon staff and state park staff in removing garlic mustard and other non-native invasive plants from the Seagrove Avenue restoration site. The group’s hard work, which resulted in a dump truck full of invasive plants, is critical to the restoration of this unique ecosystem.
The Cape May Peninsula is known around the world for its migratory bird concentrations while also providing habitat for many rare species, including the state endangered Cope’s Gray treefrog. Maritime forests found on the peninsula are unique plant communities comprising of coastal dune woodlands and forested uplands, which provide vital resources for the Peninsula’s migrant and resident wildlife. In Cape May, many of these forests have become degraded due to invasive plants that threaten biodiversity and ecosystem structure. For this restoration project, NJ Audubon and Cape May Point State Park aim to improve ecosystem health by removing invasive plants while preserving mature trees and encouraging new native growth. A combination of hand weeding, forestry mowing, and herbicide application has been implemented, a strategy that has shown to be effective in combating invasive plants. This integration of techniques has already shown great success, including regeneration of native black cherry, sassafras, and aster.
For this particular volunteer event, the team focused on hand pulling garlic mustard, a widespread invasive plant that produces abundant seeds in its second year. This plant is also known to change the composition of the soil by interfering with mycorrhizal fungi, or fungi of the root zone, which help many plants uptake essential minerals. These characteristics help garlic mustard out-compete native species, leading to limited plant diversity on the forest floor. Pulling these plants before they go to seed can help decrease garlic mustard and increase native regeneration, biodiversity, and resources for many wildlife species.
Although this is a long-term project that requires careful monitoring and diligence, the positive results seen each year are a testament to the hard work performed by our dedicated volunteers. If you are interested in volunteering for NJ Audubon on this project, please contact Kristen Meistrell at (609) 861-1608 ext. 29 or firstname.lastname@example.org. This project has been made possible through funding from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Atlantic City Electric, and the William Penn Foundation.
--Written by Jean Lynch, photos by Jean Lynch
Moore's Beach is a classic Delaware Bayshore site-a mile and a half long access road, flanked by salt marsh, leads you to a narrow beach with almost a mile of shoreline. This site is used by native wildlife such as diamondback terrapins, horseshoe crabs, shorebirds, raptors, and laughing gulls; in fact, it used to be one of the Bayshore's most heavily used shorebird stopover sites during spring migration. The land is owned by the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife and is officially part of Heislerville Wildlife Management Area.
Despite its historical condition, the site is marred by tons of rubble from years ago, a legacy of a community defending itself against storm surges and rising seas. When the land was acquired by the state, the homes and the majority of the infrastructure were removed. Years later the beach still retains a large amount of rubble, including cinder blocks, drain pipes, stone, brick, asphalt, pilings, and other debris. Not only does the debris detract from the experience of visiting Moore’s Beach, but it is also suspected of interfering with the natural dynamics of sand dispersion on the beach, creating obstacles to horseshoe crab movement. Hurricane Sandy eroded the beach further, reducing the amount of quality available nesting and foraging habitat for crabs and birds. The mile and a half-long access road has also become degraded over time, with potholes visible from satellite photos.
View this as the past. For more than a year, NJ Audubon and several partners have been developing the plan to improve this habitat for horseshoe crab spawning and shorebird foraging, and to improve visitor access. Now, thanks in part to attention and resources brought in response to Hurricane Sandy, restoration of the beach is underway.
As of this writing, the road is being patched to allow heavy equipment to reach the beach. Once the road has been adequately prepared, equipment will be brought onto the beach to conduct large-scale rubble removal. We hope to have the rubble removal completed by the end of April, in time for this year’s shorebird migration! Work not completed by that time, including sand replenishment, will be undertaken after the migration and bird breeding season are over. Other improvements we are striving for include interpretive signs, a viewing platform, parking and other enhancements for visitors and wildlife.
Our partners include the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, owners of the site, and LJ Niles Associates LLC. Larry Niles and Dianne Daly deserve special recognition for their key leadership roles on the project. Funding in support of the project has been provided by the DuPont Clear into the Future Program, the State of New Jersey Natural Resource Damages Fund, the Dodge Recovery Fund, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the William Penn Foundation.
Readers should be aware that access to Moore’s Beach is normally restricted from early May to early June to protect migrating shorebirds.
As Spring arrives the fields and woodlands begin to wake-up and burst with the emergence of plant life to color the landscape and welcome in the wildlife from the long cold winter. And with the arrival of the new buds, shoots and flowers comes opportunity for us humans to embrace the outdoors and our primal roots and forage!
NJ Audubon believes in the concept of foraging because it is an excellent way to engage the public and educate them about the importance of natural resource protection, habitat and agriculture. Knowing where your food comes from, linking the food to the land, creates better education opportunities for the public to recognize how conservation efforts protect soil, water, wildlife and other natural resources
Where our food comes from and how it is grown (be it on a farm or in nature) has a profound effect on our landscapes, our health, our wildlife and the communities where we live. And how we steward and manage our lands and understand the connections these plants have on an ecosystem is the key to a meaningful, healthy, and enjoyable existence.
However, not all plants may be suitable to forage. Just because it appears in an edible wild plant book, cookbook or website or are being offered for sale for consumption does not always make that plant fair game to forage. Obviously plants that appear in Federal and State Endangered or Threatened species list should not be foraged, but what about other native plants that serve ecological niches in ecosystems. Some of these plants might seem “abundant” in a particular preserve or area that has not yet been disturbed by man but those plants also fill very special functions on the landscape that have direct impact on other species and help maintain ecological balance in the landscape. In particular, I refer to certain native plants called Spring ephemerals.
Spring ephemerals are found throughout the eastern United States and Canada, usually close to the ground in woodlands and floodplains. Examples of spring ephemerals in the Northeast include: Trout lily (Erythronium americanum), Spring beauty (Claytonia virginica), Cut-leaf toothwort (Cardamine concatenata), May-apple (Podophyllum peltatum), and various trilliums (Trillium spp.) to name a few.
Spring ephemerals have a unique growing strategy. They begin to show them themselves above ground during a very small window where the trees do not yet have leaves and they can receiver maximum sunlight. In this short timeframe of a few weeks out of the entire year, the spring ephemeral must grow, leaf-out, flower, be pollinated, produce seeds and die back. By May or June when the trees and shrubs overhead have fully leafed-out and block access to the sunlight the Spring ephemerals have retreated underground until they emerge again the following year.
Spring ephemerals serve many ecological purposes including providing vital early spring food sources for many beneficial insects, when food sources are limited. This is of particular importance to various essential pollinators such as bees, bee flies and butterflies. According to the National Academy of Sciences, close to 75% of the flowering plants on earth rely to some degree on pollinators in order to set seed or fruit. From these plants comes one-third of humankind's food and even greater proportion of the food for much of our wildlife. When you consider how limited early spring food sources are in the landscape for these pollinators, one may re-think foraging for a spring ephemeral, no matter if it just taking a few or many.
Another function spring ephemerals serve is being the main subject of a process called myrmecochory. Myrmecochory is seed dispersal by ants. Spring ephemeral seeds have fatty external appendages called eliaosomes. These elaiosomes attract ants that will carry the seeds back to their nests to feed their young. However once the eliaosmes are eaten the remaining seeds have now been transported to another location to start to germinate to grow another generation of spring ephemeral.
Reports have show that a single ant colony may collect as many as a thousand seeds over a season. However, although many seeds are collected and transported, the transportation of the seed on average in not that far, only on average of about 6 feet. Because offspring remain so local (unlike plants dispersed by wind, larger animals, birds), removal of plants from an area is major threat to the survival of spring ephemerals because once these plants are gone from the forest, it is rare that they return because the seed source is removed
Spring ephemerals are declining in many areas due to development (urbanization and sprawl) climate change, spread of invasive species and deer browse.
Because of their fragile beauty, spring ephemerals are also tempting to being picked for their flowers. Disturbance to these plants, especially digging them out, can severely disturb or kill the slow-growing rootstocks of the ones that remain on the landscape.
So leave these plants and enjoy their fragile beauty in nature where they belong. If you need to pick, then be responsible and choose some lovely but robust invasive plants or noxious weeds which are not as connected to the underlying landscape ecosystem and which are aggressively prolific. Remember, sustainable management of natural resources is essential to make food systems sustainable.