New Jersey Environment

New Jersey has a unique environment. This tiny state packs in adventures from the shore to the mountains. New Jersey, known as the Garden State, has a rich history of vegetation and wildlife. The New Jersey Pine Barrens is home to one of the most unique ecosystems in the country. The Pine Barrens are a remnant of the last ice age. The area is characterized by sandy; acidic soil, high mineral content, especially iron; and scruffy pine and oak trees. The pine trees are heat resistant, as the area is very prone to forest fires. When a fire does occur, so does the process of re-birth. It is the heat from the fire that causes the cones to release their seeds. The seeds have a heavy seed coat to protect them from the heat. When the fire is out, the seeds are sitting in the soil that is now rich in organic matter. The trees do not tend to grow very high and the undergrowth can become very dense, thus setting off fires. In many parts of the Pine Barrens controlled burns are conducted by the Forest Service and local fire departments. This is done to keep the undergrowth less dense and reduce the chance of a serious fire breaking out and destroying the area.
The Pine Barrens also contain many bogs. The growing of cranberries and blueberries is a major industry of the area, as was iron smelting earlier in the century. The area sports some rare plants such as venus fly traps, pitcher plants, and has the highest diversity of orchids in the continental United States. The Pine Barrens is also the home of the New Jersey Devil.
From Sandy Hook to Ocean City New Jersey has 130
miles of coastline and 1,792 miles of shoreline.  One reason for the huge discrepancy between the two measurements is the barrier islands.
These islands, which form intercoastals between Maine and Florida, are small islands, most only a few miles long and wide, that lie between the ocean and the mainland.  This allows the formation of bays, containing brackish water, that attract many life forms, both aquatic and human.  Tidal forces continually shift the sand that forms these islands.  There is a continual battle of land being lost on the northern ends and gained on the southern ends as the tides shift the sand.  The beaches of many of these islands attract thousands of tourists each year.  My family often vacations on Long Beach Island at the very southern tip.
Though these islands are small, they do have several different types of biomes as you transverse them end to end.  As you move up from the beach, dunes form with dune grasses.  As the salinity of the soil decreases, moving away from the ocean, the variety of plant species increases.  Toward the center of the island you will find more swampy areas and even small trees.  Then, as you get closer toward the bay the variety of plant species again decreases but are different from the ocean side.
These islands and waterways are the beginnings of the Coastal Plain, one of three major geographical divisions of New Jersey.  Much of this area is Tidal Marsh.  The western part of the plain, in Burlington County, is home to one of the richest fruit-growing districts in the eastern United States.  Crops such as melon, potatoes, and corn are grown.  The Pine Barrens covers much of the southern and central part of the Coastal Plain.  Along with the famous pine forrest are areas that are very swampy, forming bogs.  The swamp land has large amounts of sphagnum moss which is of great commercial value.  Also, cranberry bogs are farmed, bringing commercial value to them as well.
The highest point in New Jersey at 1,803 feet above sea level resides in Highpoint State Park.  This pristine spot resides in the upper northwest corner of the state, in the Appalachian Highlands region.  The name is derived  from the small portion of the Appalachian mountain chain that passes through that location.
The ridge is mostly composed of gneiss, limestone, granite, slate, and sandstone.  These rocks are what is left after softer rocks have been worn away over the millennia.  At one point in time scientists believe the Appalachians were higher than the Rocky’s, but were crushed by the weight of the glaciers.  Today they rise a few millimeters each year.
The mountains are lined with dense forests and northern bogs, and many streams.  Much of this land has been set aside as a state park, Stokes State Forrest.   Highpoint lies within the park. Great Swamp
With the retreat of the glaciers and their melting, a great deal of water was released into the environment.  Many of the lakes in Sussex County were formed through glacial melts.
In Morris and Somerset Counties a huge depression left from the glacier filled with water creating a lake.   In he ensuring years the lake has slowly evaporated, becoming swampland.  Today, this area is known as the Great Swamp.   The water continues to evaporate and succession is changing the flora from that of a swamp to plants more typical of a northern deciduous forrest.
When a proposal was put through to build an airport within the Great Swamp residents and other concerned citizens banded together to form Great Swamp Watershed Association.   Today the area is a preserve and recreational area.  There are trails through the swamp, raised platforms to protect the flora and fauna, and blinds.


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