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Scientific Research

Volume Two of the Central Pine Barrens Comprehensive Land Use Plan discusses the natural history of the region and identifies several major research studies that predate the 1993 Long Island Pine Barrens Protection Act, noting that very few additional studies have been completed.  It discusses042016_PineBarrens-61 research needs in various areas such as fire ecology and the effects of other disturbances in the Pine Barrens, the natural history and biology of species of concern and the hydrologic regimes upon which Pine Barrens wetland ecosystems depend.  The plan also discusses the need for biological and environmental monitoring, a more comprehensive biological inventory of the Central Pine Barrens to supplement and enhance the data in the Natural Heritage program; and the need to develop conceptual ecological models, as well as what research has been accomplished in these areas to date.  The Nature Conservancy for many years coordinated research efforts related to pine barrens communities in the Northeast with academic institutions, including research within the Long Island Central Pine Barrens, to map occurrences of pine barrens communities; plan for and identify conservation, monitoring and management programs; and further identify research needs.

A considerable amount of vital scientific research has been conducted in pine barrens communities from Maine to West Virginia, including here on Long Island.  Much of this research is directly applicable to the Long Island Central Pine Barrens region.  Many studies have been carried out in the New Jersey Pinelands and Albany Pine Bush Preserve.  Hundreds of New Jersey studies are listed in the compendia of Buchholz and Good (1982) and Matlack, Good and Gibson (1986).  These include papers on botany, plant and community ecology, fire ecology, geology and soils, hydrology and water chemistry, meteorology and zoology.  Dozens of studies have been conducted from 1991 to the present in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve located near the New York State capital.  These have included floristic inventories, wildlife research, monitoring, ecological restoration and wetland investigations.  Although much of the information on the New Jersey Pinelands and Albany Pine Bush Preserve can be applied to the Long Island Central Pine Barrens, in at least a general way, more research studies that specifically address ecological and conservation issues in the Long Island Central Pine Barrens would be of value for future management decisions concerning publicly-owned land within both the Core Preservation Area and Compatible Growth Area.

However, overall research on the Long Island Central Pine Barrens has been limited.  Additional research continues to be needed today to gain a better understanding of the processes, conditions, trends, history and evolution of the Long Island Central Pine Barrens, which will help us to understand how best to continue to preserve and manage this spectacular natural resource.

Pine barrens communities are fire-dependent ecosystems that require fire to remain healthy and regenerate, and that have developed physical adaptations that enable them to survive wildfires.  Major fire ecology research related to pine barrens communities such as the Central Pine Barrens has been carried out by noteworthy scientific researchers such as, Dr. William Patterson at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) and others who are identified in Volume Two of the Land Use Plan.  Therefore, research on fire ecology and fire behavior in the Central Pine Barrens continues to be vital to understand the ecological and physical dynamics of pine barrens communities.  

Additional areas of research have focused on reconstruction of historic vegetation communities in the Long Island Central Pine Barrens (including the genetic comparison of dwarf pine barrens communities and tall pitch pines), water quality of wetlands, wetland hydrology and ecology, and Lepidoptera in the Central Pine Barrens, among other specific study areas.

In the past research in the Central Pine Barrens was carried out independently and with little formalized coordination by a variety of universities, conservation organizations, governmental agencies, private entities, and individuals - a trend that continues today.  Nevertheless, there are many universities and colleges, on Long Island and elsewhere, that have the potential to make significant research contributions and facilitate communication among researchers.  Efforts should be made to increase communication and cooperation among these various researchers.

The Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission continues to play a significant role in promoting research in the Central Pine Barrens in conjunction with academic institutions, such as Stony Brook University, and with Brookhaven National Laboratory.  Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) has advanced various ecological studies and research over the years at its 530-acre Upton Ecological and Research Reserve that was created in 2000 and is home to more than 220 species of plants and 162 species of mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, including significant rare and endangered species. 

From 1994 to 2015, the Commission sponsored an annual research forum that brought together North American and international researchers conducting explorations in various scientific fields to discuss topics related to groundwater, pine barrens ecology, dwarf pine barrens genetics, invasive species and targeted research on wildlife species such as flying squirrels, with important contributions from and in cooperation with local universities and schools.  More recently the Commission brought together key scientists from the southern United States and elsewhere to share knowledge, experience and research related to managing the destructive Southern Pine Beetle.

For further information on research in the Central Pine Barrens, visit our online document library.




Buchholz, K. and R. E. Good. Compendium of New Jersey Pine Barrens Literature. Division of Pinelands Research, Center for Coastal and Environmental Studies. Rutgers-The State University, 1982.

Matlack, G. R., R. E. Good and D. J. Gibson. "Second Survey of Current Research in the New Jersey Pine Barrens. Division of Pinelands Research, Center for Coastal and Environmental Studies."