Rutgers, Rowan Joint Study Finds Coastal Salt Marsh Erosion, Decreased Land Development in New Jersey

By: Arianna Adan, Writer / Follow South Jersey Higher Education Intern

Photo: Rowan University

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — A recent study co-authored by researchers from Rowan University and Rutgers-New Brunswick found that land development in the state is slowing down. It also found that New Jersey lost around 4,400 acres of coastal salt marshes in recent years.

The study, which accounted for changes that took place from 1986-2015, found that New Jersey lost nearly seven square miles of coastal salt marshes from 1986 to 2015 as a result of surging sea levels and coastal erosion, all of which affects wildlife habitats and fish. These changes also effect the state’s buffers against coastal storms, but some of these losses may be mitigated by new marshes forming as upland and wetland forests.

Rutgers and Rowan’s study did, however, produce some good news. Approximately 10,392 acres of land in New Jersey developed into urban land between 2012 and 2015. In the late 1990s, nearly 16,852 acres were converted into urban land annually, and the trend of decreased land development has continued throughout the 2000s.

 “Our study details how New Jersey’s regional planning initiatives in the Pinelands and Highlands has had a major impact on the way growth over the past three decades has occurred in these ecologically-sensitive parts of the state,” said Dr. John Hasse, the co-lead investigator of the study and a professor of Geography at Rowan. “Urbanization in these regional areas has been slower, consumed less land per capita, and occurred largely in the designated growth zones compared with the rest of the state. The effect has been to reduce the pressure of development on natural lands, allowing more time for those lands to be conserved.”

Although the rate of farmland converted to urban areas decreased, the same can’t be said about the conversion of upland and wetland forests. However, regulations put in place to preserve more sensitive parts of the Pinelands and Highlands regions have mostly worked, which has led growth to be restricted to designated areas, according to Dr. Hasse.

You can read the full report from Rutgers and Rowan here.

This article was produced by a Follow South Jersey news intern thanks to a grant provided by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through the New Jersey Health Initiatives program to create hyper-local news to meet the informational and health needs of the City of Bridgeton, N.J.