Bassett Road Forest Restoration Project
The Bassett Road Tract is located at the corner of Route 45 and Bassett Road in Mannington and is also bounded by Mannington Creek, Culliers Run, and their tributaries. Like the Salem Grassland Restoration Site, this area and the surrounding landscape fall within the Mannington Meadows Important Bird Area, the Mannington Meadows Natural Heritage Priority Site, and the Delaware Estuary Ramsar site. The mosaic of wetlands, streams, forest, and early successional habitat provides critical nesting and foraging habitat for bald eagles, osprey, and sandhill cranes, as well as vital resources for a variety of native mammals, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and fish species. The area offers important stopover habitat for migratory birds as well as prime wintering habitat for a variety of waterfowl species.
The Bassett Road Tract was once a working ornamental plant nursery that closed in the 1990s. The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife eventually purchased the land, and in 2011 New Jersey Audubon began to implement restoration efforts to improve early successional habitat there. Because of the unique history of this tract, management activities proved to be an interesting challenge. Many of the original ornamental trees planted in the nursery are still present within this ecosystem, including saw-toothed oak, European chestnut, Japanese cherry, and a variety of arborvitaes. Although these species are non-native, many are not considered invasive, and have been left in place. Instead, management has focused primarily on improving habitat structure, promoting regeneration of native plants, and controlling those non-native plants that are invasive and that do pose a significant threat. Mile-a-minute vine, autumn olive, Japanese honeysuckle, and Bradford pear are some examples of invasive and non-native plants that threaten the biodiversity and health of this ecosystem and that are targets for control.
Mile-a-minute vine, Japanese honeysuckle, and autumn olive are all considered widespread invasive plants due to their ability to outcompete native vegetation. Autumn olive may have been offered for sale at the nursery; it may have been planted at one time to attract wildlife; or its seed may have been spread by traveling birds. Whatever the reason, the plant had multiplied significantly and had come to dominate many sections of the former nursery. It is the target of intensive management at the site. Bradford pear, a popular ornamental plant, was almost certainly planted as part of the nursery’s inventory, but appears to have spread within the Bassett Road tract. This species is now considered an emerging invasive threat in New Jersey, and management is critical. A variety of techniques, including hand removal, herbicide application, and forestry mowing, are allowing us to control these invasive species while promoting native plant regeneration and enhancing vegetative structure. The creation of several early successional habitat stages will provide resources to a variety of plants and animals, including American woodcock. The improved ecosystem will also enhance the vegetative buffer surrounding the Mannington Meadows wetland complex, a service that is important for water quality and soil conservation.