Our Local Ecosystem - Habitats
Though extensively developed, the borough still entertains a multitude of environments where people and nature live. With most of our upland turned to home lots and much of our wetlands lagooned and filled, it appears little room remains for any entirely natural systems. These systems lay along and within our aquatic borders.
A simple description of each follows:
Defined by State Statute, these areas essentially are marshes washed by salt water tides and having salt-tolerent species of plants and animals. Fine silts and muds exclusively form the base upon which they grow. Wetlands are the breeding areas of 70% of ocean fishes. They act as feeding areas, storm buffers, pollution absorbents, wildlife sanctuary and aesthetic open spaces. As the amount of wetland diminishes, so too does the amount of wildlife. Wildlife not only includes typical animals, but also the fishes so important to our recreational pursuits.
In most cases bordering our Tidal Saltmarsh, no clear line delineates the two. Pure Tidal Saltmarsh and pure freshwater marsh contain few identical floral or faunal species. The ecotone of the two creates a fantastic opportunity for ocean fishes and many other coastal wildlife to reproduce. Fine silts and muds form the base for this zone. Grass-like and herbaceous plants predominate on marshes. These plants differ from the plants found on Tidal Saltmarsh in species but not often in form. This similarity confuses the amateur when attempting to differentiate between these two forms of wetland. However, both are equally vital to survival of our estuarine species.
Historically most of Point Pleasant existed as pine-oak and pine forest. When first settled by Europeans, forests were cleared for wood and to enable farm development. Later, people abandoned farms. The land returned, by plant succession, to its original state temporarily. Time brought pressures for development. As the borough changed to home lots, these new forests were again altered. This time, selective cutting of home lot vegetation allowed some native plants to remain. In addition, homeowners added domestic and imported species for landscaping and decorative purposes. Usually this means that native bushes, herbaceous plants, and most trees are removed and replaced with grass lawns, some shade trees, and a few buffer bushes. This is the upland zone of the town today. The few existing empty lots are expected at least to be cleared of low shrubbery and herbaceous plants to enable recreational use or at most to be built upon. Our natural weeds are deemed persona non grata by borough ordinance.
The map at right shows the dispersal of tree species throughout the town.
That area defined by riparian law as lying beneath the tide line contains significant habitats for local aquatic species. Water movements over an extended period of time usually determine bottom sediments and organisms. Where constant currents wash, such as in our Point Pleasant Canal, the bottom is sandy and rocky. Where currents slow or become inconsistent, like Beaver Dam Creek, silt and mud bottoms form. Where channelled tides spin off slower eddies, like the Manasquan River, sandy and muddy bottoms intersperge. Most bottom dwelling life on tidelands depends upon a certain bottom type for living space and cannot move when alterations happen. Therefore, to maintain thriving and sometimes commercially important areas such as shellfish beds or fish wintering areas, it is essential that we minimize these alterations. All tidewaters in the borough are rated as TW-1 by the State's classification system. This rating cannot be diminished by any activity. The saltwater wedge of the Manasquan River vascilates in the area of Osborn Island. In the wedge, freshwater runoff from the upstream river, less dense, mixes and "floats" on the surface of incoming tidal saltwater, thus forcing the saltier water to the bottom. The subtle salinity changes between these two waters trigger significant activities among aquatic organisms and therefore the maintenance of the salt wedge is vital to the status quo of our present river species success. A significant and essential flounder and fluke fishery exists between the head of the canal and the Route 70 Bridge. Our zoning must protect the integrity of the river.
Swamps in the borough make up the only significant land-based areas of any size still left in a semi-natural state. Difficult to use without cutting the trees, and draining and filling, usually swamps are the final areas used to build homes and businesses. Swamps typically are wet areas of land supporting species of woody trees and shrubs tolerant of large quantities of fresh water. Surface soils in swamps remain similar to those of wetlands and freshwater marshes: silty, muddy, and very fine. In our area this is due to the inability of rainwater to leach these fine materials deeper into the soil as would happen in dryer zones. Typical borough indicator trees for swamps are red maple, sourgum and atlantic white cedar.
The Point Pleasant Canal runs right through the middle of Point Pleasant borough. It connects the Manasquan River on the North side of the town to Barnegat Bay on the South side. First built in 1925, it caused the Manasquan inlet to close up temporarily as the river found a new course via Barnegat Bay. Due to the two drastically different bodies of water it connects, one can expect fast currents, despite the relatively small tide changes we experience. The canal is a no-wake zone, but becomes easily crowded with boaters during the summer months. It is also home to many of the species found in both the River and the Bay.
Though blessed with such an enormous saltwater environment, the town lacks freshwater bodies of any size. That makes anything we have significant.
The only pond in the town is located beside the N.J. Marine Police station on the Point Pleasant Canal. There, two amphibians which exist as common denizens, the spring peeper and Fowler's toad, indicate that at least the surface of the pond is fresh water. Since fresh water's density causes it to "float" on salt water, the pond may very well be maintaining an extremely delicate balance of rain runoff floating on subsurface, intruding salt water. As such, any change in the fresh water supply would radically alter this system. If we are to keep the pond, we must maintain its integrity through care in the flow of water to the area.
Located primarily along our Manasquan River, beaches buffer forests from tidelands. Our beaches are composed mainly of infertile quartz sands and gravels incapable of supporting extensive vegetative growth. The sparse wildlife has no cover to hide and therefore must be quick for flight or heavily armored. Our beaches extend below the tide line to form sand bars and flooded flat with little relief. While beaches can take tremendous recreational pressures without unduly taxing their natural qualities, they remain significant borough areas worthy of public concern for flood control use, and access. Protection from development is vital for the public welfare.