SIGNIFICANT HABITATS AND HABITAT COMPLEXES
OF THE NEW YORK BIGHT WATERSHED

Long Island Pine Barrens - Peconic River Complex
COMPLEX #8

List of Species of Special Emphasis

Maps

 

I. SITE NAME: Long Island Pine Barrens - Peconic River Complex

 

II. SITE LOCATION: The Long Island Pine Barrens - Peconic River complex is located in east-central Long Island about 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of New York City.

TOWNS: Brookhaven, Riverhead, Southampton

COUNTY: Suffolk

STATE: New York

USGS 7.5 MIN QUADS: Quogue, NY (40072-75), Eastport, NY (40072-76), Moriches, NY (40072-77), Bellport, NY (40072-78), Mattituck, NY (40072-85), Riverhead, NY (40072-86), Wading River, NY (40072-87), Middle Island, NY (40072-88), Patchogue, NY (40073-71).

USGS 30x60 MIN QUAD: Long Island, East (40072-E1)

 

III. BOUNDARY DESCRIPTION AND JUSTIFICATION: The boundary of the habitat complex generally follows the outer boundary of the 40,470-hectare (100,000-acre) Central Pine Barrens zone designated by the state of New York in 1993. It is a roughly rectangular area extending from the hamlet of Coram in central Long Island east to the hamlet of Squiretown on Long Island's South Fork; the width of the area from north to south varies from 14 kilometers (9 miles) at the western end to about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) at the eastern end. This boundary encompasses the majority of the remaining contiguous pine barrens habitat in central Long Island, including the Peconic River from its headwaters to its mouth at the Peconic Bays, several coastal plain pond complexes, the Flanders Bay salt marsh complex, and the dwarf pine plains community. Also included is the upper Carmans River; additional information on the Carmans River is included in the narrative for Great South Bay. The entire Long Island Pine Barrens is important as a complex of relatively undeveloped pine barrens forest and wetlands containing regionally rare wetland and upland communities and supporting the highest diversity of rare species in New York State. Focus areas of significance to fish and wildlife resources, unique plant communities, or regional biological diversity include: Peconic River and headwaters and associated coastal plain ponds including the Tarkill Ponds-Lake Panamoka complex; dwarf pine plains; Flanders Bay wetlands and coastal plain pond complex; and Cranberry Bog. Each of these focus areas is delineated on the accompanying map. There are also three areas on Long Island outside of the core pine barrens area that contain sizable examples of a pitch pine-scrub oak barrens community: Edgewood Oak Brush Plains, Brentwood Oak Brush Plains, and Pinelawn Cemetery.

 

IV. OWNERSHIP/PROTECTION/RECOGNITION: New York State passed the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act in 1993, creating the Central Pine Barrens zone. Central Pine Barrens is divided into two zones: the 21,247-hectare (52,500-acre) Core Preservation Area in which development will be strictly limited, and the 19,223-hectare (47,500-acre) Compatible Growth Area surrounding the core area in which planned development will continue. At present, about half the Core Preservation Area is public park land. The Pine Barrens Act established a Central Pine Barrens Commission which developed a comprehensive land use plan for the forest preserve that was completed and signed into law in 1995. Suffolk County owns numerous parcels within the habitat complex, several of which are managed in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. County park areas include Sears-Bellows Park, Cranberry Bog Nature Preserve, Hubbard County Park, Robert Cushman Murphy Park, South Haven Park, and several other undeveloped park lands. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation also owns extensive acreage in the Pine Barrens (over 3,035 hectares [7,500 acres] to date). The U.S. Government owns two large parcels within the Pine Barrens: the 2,131-hectare (5,265-acre) Brookhaven National Laboratory and the Calverton Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant. (Developed areas within the Calverton facility will be transferred to the town of Riverhead for economic development, and the undeveloped areas will be transferred to a conservation agency.) Brookhaven State Park is owned and managed by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation manages two wildlife management areas, the David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens Preserve and the Rocky Point State Unique Area, along with other small state conservation areas. The Nature Conservancy manages the Stuyvesant Wainright Memorial Refuge and the Calverton Ponds Preserve. Significant Coastal Fish and Wildlife Habitats within the habitat complex recognized by New York State Department of State include Carmans River, Peconic River, and Flanders Bay Wetlands. The Peconic River has been designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a priority wetland site under the federal Emergency Wetlands Resources Act of 1986. The Peconic Bays, including Flanders Bay and the tidal Peconic River, were designated as an Estuary of National Significance through the EPA's National Estuary Program; a comprehensive conservation and management plan (CCMP) is being prepared for the estuary by federal, state, county, and local agencies. Flanders Bay has been designated and mapped as an undeveloped beach unit as part of the Coastal Barrier Resources System pursuant to the federal Coastal Barrier Resources Act, prohibiting federal financial assistance or flood insurance within the unit. The Peconic River has been designated as a candidate Wild and Scenic River by the U.S. Department of the Interior, and New York State designated it as a Scenic and Recreational River under the Wild, Scenic, and Recreational Rivers System Act. The New York Natural Heritage Program, in conjunction with The Nature Conservancy, recognizes several Priority Sites for Biodiversity within the Long Island Pine Barrens habitat complex. These sites are listed here along with their biodiversity ranks: Dwarf Pine Barrens Macrosite (B1 - outstanding biodiversity significance), Flanders Ponds-Hubbard Creek Marsh (B2 - very high biodiversity significance), Lake Panamoka (B2), Long Island Pine Barrens Matrix Macrosite (B2), Peconic River Headwaters-Calverton Pond System (B2), Tarkill Pond Complex (B2), Cranberry Bog (B3 - high biodiversity significance), Long Island Compatible Growth Areas Macrosite (B3). Pine barren sites outside of the habitat complex include: Edgewood Oak Brush Plains (B2), Brentwood Oak Brush Plains (B3), Pinelawn Cemetery (B3), and South Setauket Pine Barrens (B3). This complex is at the heart of The Nature Conservancy's Peconic Biosphere Reserve, one of their "Last Great Places." Wetlands are regulated in New York under the state's Freshwater Wetlands Act of 1975 and Tidal Wetlands Act of 1977; these statutes are in addition to federal regulation under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, Section 404 of the Clean Water Act of 1977, and various Executive Orders.

 

V. GENERAL HABITAT DESCRIPTION: The Long Island Pine Barrens - Peconic River complex occurs on the Atlantic Coastal Plain in central Long Island at the junction of the north and south forks and at the head of the Peconic Bays. This area was formed by the deposition and reworking of glacial materials from the most recent (Wisconsin) glacial advance. The Harbor Hill glacial moraine occurs to the north of the habitat complex on the north fork of Long Island, and the Ronkonkoma Moraine runs west to east through the middle of this habitat complex extending out onto the south fork of Long Island. The Peconic River is situated in an outwash plain valley between the two moraines. Pine barrens communities occur on the Ronkonkoma Moraine and on the outwash plains north and south of the moraine. Numerous coastal plain ponds occur in kettle hole depressions on top of the moraine and in thermokarst depressions on the outwash, particularly in the headwaters of the Peconic River. In general the soils are sandy, well-drained, nutrient-poor, and low in organic matter. The Long Island Pine Barrens occur on glacial sediments about 60 meters (200 feet) thick overlaying the large aquifer of the Magothy Formation. The pine barrens on Long Island once covered a much larger area, extending west into the town of Oyster Bay where the pine barrens met the Hempstead Plains. Remnant pitch pine-oak-heath woodland and pitch pine-scrub oak communities still occur outside of the complex boundary.

The forests and woodlands in the Long Island Pine Barrens are complexes of pitch pine and oak communities and interspersed wetlands. The most important factors controlling vegetation types are the soil saturation (depth of water table), soil composition (texture and nutrients), fire regime, and human disturbance. The dominant forest type, with greater than 60% canopy cover of trees, is the pitch pine-oak forest with varying proportions of pitch pine and one or more oak species (Quercus coccinea, Q. rubra, Q. alba, Q. velutina), and an understory dominated by scrub oak (Quercus ilicifolia) and ericaceous (heath) shrubs. Pitch pine-oak-heath woodlands are a more open community with a similar species composition but only 30 to 60% cover of trees. South of the Ronkonkoma Moraine, along the outwash plain, is the dwarf pine plains area where a pygmy forest of dwarf pitch pines and scrub oaks forms the dominant vegetation. The canopy is generally less than 2 meters (6 feet) in height and often forms a dense thicket. Almost all of the cones produced by these pine trees are of the closed cone (serotinous) type, characteristic of pineland areas experiencing frequent wildfires. Soils in this area are sandy, excessively well-drained, and nutrient-poor. The shrub and herb layers are generally dominated by ericaceous plants such as huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata), bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi), blueberry (Vaccinium pallidum), and wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), with hudsonia (Hudsonia ericoides) and little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium). The groundcover frequently consists of a dense and diverse lichen flora.

The headwaters of the Peconic River arise near Brookhaven National Laboratory and the community of Ridge in the heart of the central Long Island Pine Barrens. The river flows in a west-to-east direction past the town of Riverhead and enters into Flanders Bay, a distance of about 19 kilometers (12 miles). The pine barrens in this area extend in a broad belt several miles wide north, south, and west of the river. Throughout most of its length, the Peconic River is a rather warm, slow-moving, naturally acidic, and nutrient-poor freshwater stream ecosystem, having a large area of ponded water in its course. In its upper reaches the river has a wilderness character, and is bordered by marshes dominated by such species as water willow (Decodon verticillatus), blunt manna-grass (Glyceria obtusa), tussock sedge (Carex stricta), and bluejoint grass (Calamagrostis canadensis), as well as red maple (Acer rubrum) and Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides) swamps, upland forests of pitch pine (Pinus rigida) and white oak (Quercus alba), and a small number of houses. In this headwater area the river is generally very narrow, meandering, heavily vegetated, and bordered with a variety of bog plant species, including leatherleaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), pitcher plant (Sarracenia purpurea), round-leaf sundew (Drosera rotundifolia), and several species of peat mosses (Sphagnum spp.). Further downstream, commercial and residential development increases as the river approaches the town of Riverhead. The watershed is approximately 194 square kilometers (75 square miles), with an annual average discharge of 1 cubic meter per second (37 cubic feet per second), and water temperatures from 0 to near 30C (32 to 80F). The year-round groundwater flows are correlated to the seasonal precipitation.

Shallow coastal plain ponds of global significance are found throughout the Peconic headwaters area in the Tarkill-Panamoka area, and in the Sears-Bellows Pond area south of Flanders Bay on the South Fork. These ponds have gently sloping shorelines and are groundwater-fed; the water levels fluctuate seasonally and annually with the height of the groundwater table. The fluctuating water levels result in an intermittently exposed shoreline -- the regionally rare coastal plain pondshore community -- which supports a distinctive assemblage of plants. Fluctuating water levels maintain the structure and composition of the plant communities; periods of high water are necessary to kill seedlings of woody plants invading from surrounding uplands, and periods of low water are necessary to expose the substrate for seed germination and growth. There is distinct zonation based on elevation, soil moisture, and duration of flooding; the zones extend from the surrounding upland pine barren forest, to shrub swamp, to emergent marsh, to the coastal plain pond waters. Some of the ponds have small islands in them; these are dominated by Atlantic white cedar.

The Atlantic white cedar swamps at Owl Pond and Cranberry Bog are dominated by young Atlantic white cedar trees and red maple, with an understory of sedges, pitcher plants, round-leaf sundew, narrow-leaf sundew (Drosera intermedia), and peat mosses.

The salt marsh vegetation of the Flanders Bay wetlands complex is typical of that found throughout the region, dominated by cordgrasses (Spartina alterniflora and S. patens) and with a prominent edge zone of groundsel-bush (Baccharis halimifolia), but is remarkable both for its undeveloped and undisturbed condition as well as for its major salt panne system with salt-induced bare spots. The marsh area is approximately 324 hectares (800 acres) in size. Four freshwater tributaries flow through the marsh complex into Flanders Bay: Goose Creek, Birch Creek, Mill Creek, and Hubbard Creek. The beaches at Goose Creek Point and Red Cedar Point, along the shoreline of Flanders Bay, are low in profile, composed of coarse sands or pebbles, and generally bordered by low dunes with beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata) and sometimes salt marsh vegetation. Tidal amplitude in this area is about 0.8 meters (2.7 feet).

 

VI. ECOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE/UNIQUENESS OF SITE: The Long Island Pine Barrens - Peconic River complex contains regionally rare wetland communities including the Peconic River, coastal plain ponds, and coastal plain Atlantic white cedar swamps, and globally rare upland communities including pitch pine-oak-heath woodland and the dwarf pine plains. These communities support an unusual diversity of rare species with 147 species of special emphasis, including the following federally and state-listed species. (Living resources and their habitats are dynamic; therefore, the ecological significance and species information presented here may not be complete or up-to-date. State and federal environmental agencies [see Appendix III for office contacts] should be consulted for additional information.)

Federally listed threatened
piping plover (Charadrius melodus)

Federal species of concern(1)
creeping St. John's-wort (Hypericum adpressum)

1Species of special concern listed here include former Category 2 candidates.

State-listed endangered
eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma t. tigrinum)
least tern (Sterna antillarum)
quill-leaf arrowhead (Sagittaria teres)
horned beaked-rush (Rhynchospora inundata)
pine barren bellwort (Uvularia puberula)
coppery St. John's-wort (Hypericum denticulatum)
pixies (Pyxidanthera barbulata)
salt marsh loosestrife (Lythrum lineare)

State-listed threatened
eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon subrubrum)
common tern (Sterna hirundo)
northern harrier (Circus cyaneus)
osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
button sedge (Carex bullata)
knotted spikerush (Eleocharis equisetoides)
three-ribbed spikerush (Eleocharis tricostata)
long-tubercled spikerush (Eleocharis tuberculosa)
marsh fimbry (Fimbristylis castanea)
orange fringed orchid (Platanthera ciliaris)
swamp sunflower (Helianthus angustifolius)
possum-haw (Viburnum nudum)
tick-trefoil (Desmodium ciliare)
Carolina redroot (Lachnanthes caroliana)
golden dock (Rumex maritimus var. fueginus)
featherfoil (Hottonia inflata)
clustered bluets (Oldenlandia uniflora)

State-listed special concern animals
coastal barrens buckmoth (Hemileuca maia maia)
banded sunfish (Enneacanthus obesus)
spotted salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)
eastern hognose snake (Heterodon platyrhinos)
spotted turtle (Clemmys guttata)
common loon (Gavia immer)

State-listed rare plants
Atlantic white cedar (Chamaecyparis thyoides)
Collins' sedge (Carex collinsii)
clustered sedge (Carex cumulata)
red-rooted flatsedge (Cyperus erythrorhizos)
Houghton's umbrella-sedge (Cyperus houghtonii)
coast flatsedge (Cyperus polystachyos var. texensis)
small-flowered hemicarpha (Lipocarpha micrantha)
short-beaked bald-rush (Rhynchospora nitens)
long-beaked bald-rush (Rhynchospora scirpoides)
slender crabgrass (Digitaria filiformis)
bog aster (Aster nemoralis)
rose tickseed (Coreopsis rosea)
Nuttall's lobelia (Lobelia nuttallii)
pine barren sandwort (Minuartia [=Arenaria] caroliniana)
slender pinweed (Lechea tenuifolia)
field-dodder (Cuscuta campestris)
comb-leaved mermaid-weed (Proserpinaca pectinata)
two-flowered bladderwort (Utricularia biflora)
fibrous bladderwort (Utricularia fibrosa)
rush bladderwort (Utricularia juncea)
small floating bladderwort (Utricularia radiata)
tooth-cup (Rotala ramosior)
round-fruited ludwigia (Ludwigia sphaerocarpa)
pine barren gerardia (Agalinis virgata)

The Peconic River is one of only four major rivers on Long Island, and much of its upper watershed remains relatively undisturbed. It is the longest river on Long Island, and the longest groundwater-fed river in New York State. Due to the relatively undeveloped watershed, the Peconic River has excellent water quality, including low levels of nitrogen loading critical to maintaining the health of Flanders Bay. The Peconic River is a productive warmwater fish habitat, with naturally reproducing populations of largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), chain pickerel (Esox niger), brown bullhead (Ictalurus nebulosus), white perch (Morone americana), black crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus), swamp darter (Etheostoma fusiforme), sucker (Erimyzon oblongus), yellow perch (Perca flavescens), pumpkinseed (Lepomis gibbosus), bluegill (Lepomis macrochirus), and banded sunfish; the last is a native species. The Peconic River represents the only location in New York State where banded sunfish are found, though the species is more common in New Jersey. The anadromous alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus) spawns in the lower reaches of the Peconic River, though much of its historical distribution in the upper river is now blocked by four dams. This is also the case for the catadromous American eel (Anguilla rostrata), although the eel is capable of circumventing barriers on the river and is found throughout its reaches. In the spring of 1995 the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation lifted spawning alewife over the first dam. They will monitor survival and growth of the young fish to determine the feasibility of providing additional fish passage in the system. Estuarine species that are present at the river's confluence with Flanders Bay include mummichog (Fundulus heteroclitus), Atlantic silverside (Menidia menidia), nine-spined stickleback (Pungitius pungitius), four-spined stickleback (Apeltes quadracus), and striped bass (Morone saxatillis). Many species of birds inhabit the wetlands bordering the river, including Canada goose (Branta canadensis), American black duck (Anas rubripes), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), American wigeon (Anas americana), green-winged teal (Anas crecca), wood duck (Aix sponsa), pied-billed grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), American bittern (Botaurus lentiginosus), and great blue heron (Ardea herodias). The Peconic River is one of the few locations on Long Island where river otter (Lutra canadensis) occur.

The productive open waters and wetlands of Flanders Bay are considered to be one of the more important waterfowl wintering areas in eastern Long Island, especially for American black duck, common loon, scaup (Aythya marila and A. affinis), Canada goose, red-breasted merganser (Mergus serrator), and oldsquaw (Clangula hyemalis). There are also significant concentrations of waterfowl in this area during spring and fall migrations. Flanders Bay is a productive area for finfish, shellfish, and other organisms, and serves as an important nursery and feeding area for many estuarine fishes, including winter flounder (Pleuronectes americanus), summer flounder (Paralichthys dentatus), menhaden (Brevoortia tyrannus), weakfish (Cynoscion regalis), and scup (Stenotomus chrysops). Bay scallop (Argopecten irradians) and northern quahog (Mercenaria mercenaria) are abundant and of local commercial importance. Northern diamondback terrapin (Malaclemys t. terrapin) are reported for the area and may possibly nest here. Eastern mud turtle (Kinosternon s. subrubrum) occur in the brackish and freshwater marshes in the Flanders Bay. This is one of only a few New York State occurrences of this species and the northernmost known occurrence. Rare plants in the Flanders Bay marshes include marsh fimbry, orange fringed orchid, swamp sunflower, creeping St. John's wort, salt marsh loosestrife, and possum-haw.

Both piping plover and least tern have a long history of use of the beaches, including Red Cedar Point, Goose Creek Point, and Red Creek Pond, in the Flanders Bay wetlands for nesting, and adjacent bay waters, tidal flats, and tidal creeks for feeding. Small numbers of common tern also nest at Goose Creek and Red Cedar Point. Osprey have nested in the vicinity (at Penny Pond) and feed throughout the Flanders Bay wetlands. Probable or confirmed breeding waterfowl include Canada goose, American black duck, and mallard. Seabeach knotweed (Polygonum glaucum) also occurs on these beaches.

The headwaters of the Peconic River support a number of extremely rare natural communities in pristine condition, most notably coastal plain ponds. A complex of at least a dozen ponds occurs in the headwaters ponds system; another complex of coastal plain ponds, the Calverton Ponds, flows into the Peconic River downstream of the headwaters. Coastal plain pond complexes also occur just north of the headwaters area, including Lake Panamoka and Tarkill Pond, and in the vicinity of Sears and Bellows Ponds in Hampton Bays at the eastern end of this complex. During dry periods more pond shore substrate is exposed, and whole assemblages of globally rare plants, mostly annuals, are abundant on the pond shores. Rare coastal plain pond and pond shore plants include the following: quill-leaf arrowhead, knotted spikerush, three-ribbed spikerush, long-tubercled spikerush, dwarf bulrush (Lipocarpha micrantha), short-beaked bald-rush, long-beaked bald-rush, horned beaked-rush, reticulated nutrush (Scleria reticularis var. reticularis), slender blue flag (Iris prismatica), pine barren bellwort, slender crabgrass, panic grass (Panicum acuminatum var. wrightianum), bog aster, rose tickseed, Carey's smartweed (Polygonum careyi), northeastern smartweed (Polygonum hydropiperoides var. opelousanum), Nuttall's lobelia, pine barren sandwort, Carolina redroot, comb-leaved mermaid-weed, two-flowered bladderwort, fibrous bladderwort, rush bladderwort, small floating bladderwort, tooth-cup, round-fruited ludwigia, clustered bluets, and pine barren gerardia. These coastal plain ponds also support rare insect species including lateral bluet, painted bluet, and barrens bluet damselflies (Enallagma laterale, E. pictum, E. and recurvatum), round-necked damselfly (Nehalennia intergricollis), violet dart (Euxoa violaris), and pink sallow (Psectraglaea carnosa). The Sears-Bellows Ponds also support a good population of Hessel's hairstreak (Mitoura hesseli), a regionally rare species of butterfly associated with Atlantic white cedar. Other rare insects associated with wetlands in the pine barrens include the pitcher plant borer moth and the chain fern borer moth (Papaipema apassionata and P. stenocelis).

In some years the coastal plain ponds dry up completely, which makes them uninhabitable for fish but provides favorable habitat for rare coastal pond plants and salamanders, including the regionally rare tiger salamander. Long Island is the northern limit of the tiger salamander in the eastern part of its known range, and the Long Island Pine Barrens is a stronghold for this species with over 60 known sites in this area. Other amphibians using these ponds include spotted salamander, common red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus), wood frog (Rana sylvatica), northern spring peeper (Psuedacris c. crucifer), and eastern spadefoot toad (Scaphiopus h. holbrooki). Regionally rare reptile species found within the habitat complex include spotted turtle and eastern hognose snake.

Although a common plant community in the New Jersey Pinelands, the best New York examples of coastal plain Atlantic white cedar swamps occur within this complex at an abandoned cranberry bog in the Peconic River drainage, and at Owl Pond in the Flander Bay's drainage. The cedar swamp at Cranberry Bog State Park is the largest remaining cedar swamp on Long Island. A coastal plain poor fen associated with Sweezy Pond at the Cranberry Bog site is only of only two such fens in the Long Island Pine Barrens. These swamps support a number of rare butterflies and moths, including several rare and interesting species such as Hessel's hairstreak, pitcher plant borer moth, and unconfirmed reports of the federal candidate Lemmer's pinion moth (Lithophane lemmeri). The Cranberry Bog site contains the largest population of Hessel's hairstreak in the state. Rare plants in the swamp and fen include possum-haw, fibrous bladderwort, Collin's sedge, Walter's sedge (Carex striata), and horned beaked-rush.

Extensive dwarf pitch pine communities are known in only three sites in the world: the New Jersey pine plains (see narrative for New Jersey Pinelands), Shawangunk Ridge (see narrative for Shawangunk - Kittatinny Ridge), and the Long Island dwarf pine plains (see also pine barrens communities chapter). The Long Island dwarf pine plains is a globally imperiled community that, along with the surrounding pitch pine-oak-heath woodlands, harbors several rare plant and animal species. Rare insects include one of the largest and best populations of coastal barrens buck moth in New York, although this species is more abundant in the New Jersey Pinelands; the coastal barrens buck moth requires scrub oak as a host plant. Other rare insect species include dusted skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna), a noctuid moth (Chaetaglaea cerata), pine barrens zale (Zale sp. 1), pine barrens underwing (Catocala herodias gerhardi), jair underwing (Catocala jair ssp. 2), a notodontid moth (Heterocampa varia), pink sallow, and violet dart; and rare plants include tick-trefoil, low sand-cherry, and Houghton's umbrella sedge. Other rare insects within the Long Island pine barrens include the frosted elfin (Incisalia irus), white-m hairstreak (Parrhasius m-album), Edward's hairstreak (Satyrium edwardsii), and chain fern borer moth (Papaipema stenocilis). Disturbed areas, such as roadsides, in the pine barrens support plants such as the regionally rare slender pinweed, stargrass, and Bayard's malaxis (Malaxis bayardii). The pine barrens is also extremely important as a groundwater recharge area for the Magothy and Lloyd Aquifers.

Over 50 species of birds nest within the complex. This area is a stronghold in New York for the pine warbler (Dendroica pinus), which nests exclusively in pine forests, and for the prairie warbler (Dendroica discolor) which prefers the pitch pine-scrub oak barrens and is also characteristic of the New Jersey Pinelands. This is also an important area for several declining Neotropical migrant songbirds, such as whip-poor-will (Caprimulgas vociferus). A breeding population of at least three pairs of northern harriers within the dwarf pine plains is of regional interest and significance, particularly since breeding populations of this ground-nesting raptor have declined throughout the region.

 

VII. THREATS AND SPECIAL PROBLEMS: The lowermost reaches of the Peconic River are commercially and residentially developed, and development continues to encroach upstream. Although massive suburbanization has not yet hit the Long Island Pine Barrens, some areas are already threatened with subdivisions and other development schemes. The Brookhaven National Laboratory has a treatment plant that discharges into the upper watershed. Total phosphorus levels in the upper Peconic are unusually high, but have never been traced to one specific source. Increased development of the region would degrade water quality, increase turbidity, alter hydrology, and increase discharges of pesticides or hazardous materials into the river or ponds, all to the detriment of aquatic species. Significant localized contamination of groundwater with petroleum products or organic solvents has occurred near major facilities such as Brookhaven National Laboratory, Grumman, and Westhampton Airport. Eutrophication caused by runoff from fertilizers, septic tanks, roads, farmlands, and lawns is of considerable concern, as such over-enrichment of naturally acidic and nutrient-poor waters could lead to invasions and dominance by exotic, nutrient-loving, weedy plants and displacement of the native flora. Elimination or disturbance of adjacent wetland and forest habitat would adversely impact rare or uncommon wildlife and plant species. Suppression of wildfires that are so essential to the maintenance of the pine barrens ecosystem could result in marked vegetation changes and loss of the characteristic pinelands biota, including many of its rare species; however, the use of prescribed burns may be limited due to the surrounding development in some areas. Human disturbance of wetlands includes illegal dumping of household and commercial waste, the use of all-terrain vehicles on trails and shorelines, disruption of pond shores, and destruction and removal of plants either through development activities or bad management. Significant changes in the water quality or hydrologic regime of coastal plain ponds would result in the loss of rare species and degradation of the ecological character and value of pond and pond shore communities. Unofficial restocking of coastal plain ponds with nonnative species by local anglers results in displacement of native species. Permanent drawdown of the water table would result in the invasion by woody species into the pond shore zones, while prolonged flooding would inhibit the germination and growth of pondshore plants; either would lead to the loss of the pondshore communities and their rare species. Introduction of exotic plant species from the backyard aquarium trade, such as the already present parrot's-feather (Myriophyllum brasiliens) in the Peconic, threaten the natural diversity of aquatic plant species. The tern and piping plover nesting beaches at Red Creek Pond, Red Cedar Point, and Goose Creek Point are highly vulnerable to human-related disturbances during the critical nesting period (April 1 to August 31), particularly to recreational activities such as beach-walking, picnicking, boat landings, and off-road vehicle use, in addition to predation and disturbance from dogs and cats.

 

VIII. CONSERVATION CONSIDERATIONS: This remarkable river and pinelands complex, particularly its headwater ponds and pygmy pine plains, is of high regional significance. It should be protected and managed to the greatest extent possible to ensure the perpetuation of its unique natural communities and rare species, many of which are simply not found, not as well-developed, or in such concentrations, elsewhere in the region. Protection of water quality in the river and its tributaries and the maintenance of its resident fish populations should be given high priority by federal and state regulatory agencies.

The passage of the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act and the completion of a comprehensive land use plan are important steps in the protection of the pine barrens. For these measures to be effective, however, this planning stage must be followed by prompt acquisition of key areas in the pine barrens core, careful review of proposed development in the compatible growth area, and appropriate management of the entire area, including fire management. Management of public lands within the pine barrens must be focused on maintaining the ecological integrity of the pine barrens as a whole and the rare ecological communities and species within the pine barrens. Perpetuation of the area's unique pine barrens communities and associated rare plants, in which fire has historically played an important ecological role, needs to be the primary management goal for the individual sites and the complex as a whole. After the wildfires of 1995, a Central Pine Barrens task force was convened to develop a wildfire management strategy. In addition to or in coordination with this plan, which will focus on fire prevention and suppression, fire management plans for prescribed burning need to be specifically developed and implemented for the full spectrum of ecologically-significant sites occurring over the general area; these should concentrate on ecological restoration and should utilize the experiences and talents of such organizations as The Nature Conservancy and other groups in cooperation with state and county park resource managers and private landowners in the vicinity. Inappropriate development in the compatible growth area will affect the integrity of the entire Long Island Pine Barrens - Peconic River habitat complex, and efforts should be made to ensure that important corridors of unfragmented habitat are maintained. Protection of specific sites on private lands should be accomplished by a variety of land-protection mechanisms, including easements, cooperative agreements, zoning, tax incentives, land exchanges, and acquisition.

Particular attention needs to be focused on protecting the water quality of Flanders Bay and the value of this body of water and associated wetlands to wintering and migrating waterfowl, shellfish beds, spawning and juvenile finfish, and nesting waterbirds in the Peconic system. Protective measures should include stringent regulatory overview and enforcement of existing environmental laws, as well as developing and implementing cooperative and environmentally sound zoning and planning policies. Recommendations of the Peconic Estuary Program should be followed, particularly minimum two-acre zoning in the Peconic River corridor and reduction of nonpoint source pollution inputs. Commercially and recreationally harvested species of waterfowl and fish need to be diligently monitored to ensure that optimum sustainable populations are maintained over the area for the long term. Disturbances to colonial beach-nesting birds and wintering concentrations of waterfowl should be minimized or prevented altogether, particularly for the latter group. Protective exclosures, beach closures, warden patrols, predator removal, and public education programs are some of the actions that should be initiated to protect tern and piping plover colonies. Conservation easements on privately owned beaches such as Red Cedar Point should be pursued by local conservation organizations. Efforts should be made by appropriate federal and state agencies to identify and implement those objectives and tasks of the piping plover recovery plan that may be applicable to this area. The ecosystem research proposed in the Central Pine Barrens Comprehensive Land Use Plan and by The Nature Conservancy's Northeast Pine Barrens Ecosystem Program should be funded and carried out, and the results applied to management in the pine barrens.

 

IX. REFERENCES:

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Brookhaven National Laboratory. 1995. Phase II statewide biological inventory report. Prepared by CDM Federal Programs Corporation, New York, NY and Lawler, Matusky & Skelly Engineers, Pearl River, NY. Brookhaven National Laboratory Office of Environmental Restoration, Upton, NY.

Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission. 1995. Central pine barrens comprehensive land use plan. Vol. 1: Policies, programs and standards; Vol. 2: Existing conditions. Great River, NY.

Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission. 1994. Central pine barrens handbook: a working guide to the Long Island Pine Barrens Maritime Reserve Act of 1990 as amended by the Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act of 1993. Central Pine Barrens Commission, Great River, NY.

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Cryan, J. 1984. 1984 tiger salamander report. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.

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Grossman, D.H., K.L. Goodin, and C.L. Reuss. 1994. Rare plant communities of the conterminous United States: an initial survey. The Nature Conservancy, Arlington, VA.

Inoue, K. and J. Naidu. Undated. Vegetation of the Peconic River: A phytosociological survey. Division of Safety and Environmental Protection, Brookhaven National Laboratory. Upton, NY.

Keddy, P.A. and L.C. Wishev (eds.). 1994. Status and conservation approaches for coastal plain communities, North America. Biological Conservation 68(3):198-289.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 1996. 1995 Long Island colonial waterbird and piping plover survey. Division of Fish and Wildlife, Region 1, Stony Brook, NY.

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New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 1994. 1992-1993 Long Island colonial waterbird and piping plover survey. A research report of the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Stony Brook, NY.

New York State Department of State and Department of Environmental Conservation. 1995. Unit management plan for the Rocky Point Natural Resources Management Area, Rocky Point, NY and David A. Sarnoff Pine Barrens Preserve, Riverhead, NY. Draft.

New York State Department of State. 1987. Significant coastal fish and wildlife habitats. Habitat narratives for Peconic River and Flanders Bay wetlands. New York State Department of State, Division of Coastal Resources and Waterfront Revitalization, Albany, NY.

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Suffolk County. 1991. Peconic Estuary, Suffolk County, New York National Estuary Program nomination. Suffolk County Department of Health Services, Riverhead, NY.

Windisch, A.W. 1994. A preliminary wildlife history for the Long Island Central Pine Barrens. New Jersey Natural Heritage Program. Submitted to the Long Island Chapter, The Nature Conservancy, Cold Spring Harbor, NY.

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Woltmann, E. and B. Cronemeyer. 1995. New York Department of Environmental Conservation, Freshwater Fisheries Unit, Stony Brook, NY. Personal communication.

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Young, B., K. McKown, V. Vecchio, and K. Hattala. 1994. A study of the striped bass in the marine district of New York VII. New York Department of Environmental Conservation Marine Fisheries Unit, Stony Brook, NY.

Zaremba, R.E. and E.E. Lamont. 1993. The status of the coastal plain pond shore community in New York. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 120(2):180-187.

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List of Species of Special Emphasis

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