Tag: LRWP

We must put biodiversity on the agenda for our urban areas

The LRWP is often asked to identify top environmental issues facing our Central New Jersey watershed communities, and every year we develop a “Top 10” list of concerns. Through 2019 we feature these concerns in blog posts that explore the issues (and potential solutions) in more detail. In September we consider how loss of biodiversity reduces the ability of our local urban ecosystems to cope with threats from pollution, climate change and other human activities. Taking steps to increase local biodiversity should be on the agenda of every urban municipality in the state.

For humans, the mental and physical health and well-being, air purifying, water filtering, and other benefits of nature matter most in the places they live. Densely populated regions in New Jersey, like the Lower Raritan Watershed, are home to the majority of the state’s residents. Concentrating populations in cities, where ecological footprints per capita are lower, spares land from development and is favorable for overall global biodiversity. Biodiversity is not just an issue for rural land managers. Biodiversity matters for our cities, too. Increasing biodiversity should be on the agenda of every urban municipality in the state.

The average population density of the United States is 87 people per square mile. The average population density of US metropolitan areas (MSA) is 283 people per square mile. In 2010 in the Lower Raritan Watershed the average population density was 2,347 people per square mile, making it one of the most densely populated regions in the country.

The first “Intergovernmental Assessment of Biodiversity Summary for Policymakers”, released in May 2019, paints a grim picture. At least 1 million species face short term extinction. Declines in biodiversity link to reductions in food supply, fresh water, wood, fiber, genetic resources, medicines and more. Around the world, rates of change in nature are unprecedented, with complex causes including changes in land and sea use; direct exploitation of organisms; climate change; and pollution.

Although threats are greatest in the Global South, our central New Jersey urban watershed is not immune. Loss of forest and freshwater wetland habitat compromise water quality and food sources. Loss of coastal wetland habitat reduces coastal protections, increasing the risk from floods and hurricanes to livelihood, life and property. Loss of soil integrity threatens our “Garden State” status.

The image series below shows an increase in impervious cover in the Lower Raritan Watershed between the years 1995-2012. We see an increase in hard surfaces like roadways, parking lots and roofs over time. What are these hard surfaces replacing? Significant swatches of bio-diverse natural habitat.

An increase in impervious cover is especially hard on our local streams, many of which have already been completed culverted, buried, or otherwise covered up. Increases in impervious cover also negatively impact the surrounding flora and fauna that is crucial to ecosystem health. We know that ecosystems with a wide variety of plants and animals tend to be healthier than those with low levels of biodiversity, and healthy ecosystems are better able to adapt to changing conditions like sea level rise and climate change. We also know that biodiversity provides a significant volume of ecosystem services to urban residents, helping to buffer against nuisances generated by the cities themselves. Those of us who live in urban areas experience directly how green areas of different types provide space for recreation, social contacts, experiencing nature, and education. And we benefit from these spaces in other ways as they filter pollutants, purify water, mitigate flooding, reduce noise and buffer climate extremes like heatwaves.

The image below illustrates the diversity of natural features in the Lower Raritan Watershed. These features include state and federal threatened and endangered species, significant natural habitats as part of the NY-NJ Harbor Estuary, and juxtaposition of geologic features tapering from the volcanic basalt trap rock of the Watchung Mountains in the north, to the Piedmont, to the Coastal Plain.

Pairing the map series that traces changes in impervious cover between 1995-2002 with the map above which shows our remaining environmentally sensitive habitat areas, we see clearly that the special bio-diverse lands we do have left are incredibly vulnerable to being disturbed or degraded by human activities and developments.

Documents like the Intergovernmental Assessment of Biodiversity (2019) and the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 developed out of The Convention on Biological Diversity (2010), provide broad policy guidance that points us in the direction of future biodiversity targets. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Division of Fish and Wildlife developed the State Wildlife Action Plan (2018), providing guidance for diverse entities in cooperation across ownerships to conserve and restore habitat and connect lands and waters. These documents focus significantly on conservation and preservation of undeveloped and vulnerable lands. To be sure, they are important tools and resources on the path to a more bio-diverse New Jersey, nation and planet, but little of the guidance they provide directly informs policy choices and personal action for our urban landscapes.

The Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership believes that in addition to broad policy guidance for conservation and preservation, we need a fundamental shift in collective perspective to see that in the fight to protect biodiversity, cities matter too. With the right form and organization, urban areas can provide significant opportunities to biodiversity, including hosting rare and endangered species and habitat types.

Any shift in perspective must involve broadening our understanding of what “nature” is in cities to include a variety of typically forgotten or neglected spaces. Detention and retention basins, brownfields and contaminated sites, vacant lots, roadside and streamside buffer areas, community gardens, and cemeteries are all potential reservoirs of urban diversity. Much of our work in the Lower Raritan revolves in and around these types of neglected spaces, and much of our work involves implementing Nature Based Solutions and Green Infrastructure. We have adopted Nature Based Solutions and Green Infrastructure approaches because they bring considerations for biodiversity and healthy ecosystem function back to our urban areas and their critical density of population. We believe that by implementing these concepts in our cities, linking healthy ecosystem function in the urban core to its broader watershed, we can center biodiversity at the heart of wider spatial planning and spatial policy making.

8.22.2019 Pathogen Monitoring Results

Raritan River Enterococci results for 8.22.2019, for six non-swimming beach public access sites. Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels for enterococci should not exceed 104cfu/100mL.

**Please note: these results are preliminary and awaiting Quality Control.**

June 8 BioBlitz in New/North Brunswick

A BioBlitz is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. At a BioBlitz, scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to get a snapshot of an area’s biodiversity.

On June 8 the LRWP and partners including the Americorps Watershed Ambassadors Program, New Brunswick Environmental Commission, North Brunswick Environmental Commission, and Elmwood Cemetery will host our inaugural BioBlitz of Elmwood Cemetery in North Brunswick!

Elmwood Cemetery is a special forested habitat refuge nestled between the urban New and North Brunswick communities. The Cemetery was established in 1868 as a “Victorian Garden Cemetery” during the rural cemetery movement, and to this day all of Elmwood’s lanes and paths are lined with evergreens and flowering native trees. Cemetery managers are building on this legacy of careful planning and land protections to secure Arboretum accreditation, which will allow them to further advance the planting, study, and conservation of woody plants and trees in the area. Elmwood is located at 425 Georges Rd, North Brunswick Township, NJ 08902.

Our BioBlitz will run from 5:30AM-2PM and include public talks by expert naturalists about local natural history, and a chance for the public to work with these experts in an active survey of mammals, fish, plants, insects, aquatic invertebrates, birds and fungi.

5:30AM – Check-in opens
6:00AM – Birds
7:00AM – Mammals
8AM – Plants
9AM – Aquatic Invertebrates, Insects
10AM – Fish, Fungi
11:30AM – Procession of Species to Elmwood Office lawn
12:00PM – Data reports, lunch, conversation
2PM – Wrap up

Our Expert Scientists:

Aquatic Invertebrates: Von Scully, Erin Dempsey, Jen Helminski with NJ Watershed Ambassadors
Birds: Laurie Gneiding, NJDEP Ornithologist/Ecologist for Environmentally Sensitive Areas
Fish: Chuck Sedor with NJ Division of Fish & Wildlife, Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries
Fungi: Randy Hemminghaus and Nancy Addotta with the NJ Mycological Association
Insects: Trisha Nichols with the Philadelphia Insectarium Butterfly Pavilion
Mammals: Brionna Primiani with NJ Wildlife Services
Plants/Trees: Michele Bakacs with Middlesex County EARTH Center – Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Please register to be part of one of these species teams!

June 1 – Visual Habitat Assessment with Jon Dugan!

Calling all Streamkeepers and Citizen Scientists!

Please join us for our June 1 visual habitat assessment training with the LRWP’s Volunteer Monitoring Manager Jon Dugan! (Here’s more on the LRWP’s water quality monitoring programs).

This FREE training on Saturday June 1 will run from 9 AM – 1 PM at the Middlesex High School, located at 300 John F Kennedy Dr, Middlesex, NJ 08846

We will start the morning with a lecture indoors, and then get out in the field to test our knowledge of streams and stream habitat.

Please wear clothing and footwear that you don’t mind getting wet and dirty.

Registration required.

May 30 Raritan River Pathogen Monitoring Results

Many thanks to our great team of volunteers who dedicated their Thursday to sampling for fecal coliform and enterococci at six non-swimming beach public access sites along the Raritan River.

Enterococci levels are used as indicators of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria in recreational waters. Such pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. Sources of bacteria include Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), improperly functioning wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff, leaking septic systems, animal carcasses, and runoff from manure storage areas. Enterococci levels are often high after heavy or consistent rainfall.

Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. 
Suitable levels should not exceed 104 cfu/100mL.

Site NameTime Enterococcus (CFU)
Riverside Park (40.54067, -74.51219)9:51TNTC
Rutgers Boathouse (40.48826, -74.43384)10:32 TNTC
Edison Boathouse (40.48769, -74.38409)11:09TNTC
Ken Buchannan Waterfront Park(40.47483, -74.35586)11:47TNTC
South Amboy Waterfront Park (40.48334, -74.2698)12:3027
2nd Street Park (49.50007, -74.27719)1:03120

Huge thanks to our partners EARTH Center of Middlesex County and the New England Interstate Water Pollution Control Commission. We are still working to develop a platform for data reporting and sharing, but for now see our program overview for more information on the sites and our monitoring efforts.

Monitoring at Riverside Park in Piscataway 5.30.2019.
Photo by Jim Hearty

Please note that while we follow quality control measures, the real-time nature of data delivery means that EPA has not reviewed, and these are not technically quality controlled.

Raritan River Pathogens Monitoring – Summer 2019

Running for 20 weeks through Summer 2019, the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership and Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County (RCE) will gather data and other information on water quality for public access sites along the tidal portions of the Raritan River at locations considered non-bathing beaches. This project is supported through grants from the Interstate Environmental Commission (IEC) and Rutgers’ Sustainable Raritan River Initiative (SRRI).

Summer 2019 Pathogens/Bacteria Monitoring Sites

LRWP and RCE will monitor non-bathing beach sites with active kayak/canoe launches and/or fishing and other primary contact activities that, as non-bathing beach sites, are not regularly monitored by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) or the New Jersey Department of Health and Human Services and lack sufficient water quality data.

In addition to yielding important data about the health and safety of our waterways, the Project will also allow for development of civic science and expanded volunteer environmental monitoring programming within the Lower Raritan Watershed and Middlesex County, NJ. We are working with an approved Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP), provided by the IEC, which will allow for data generated from this project to inform water quality policy and regulatory decisions at all levels of government within the project area, and to educate the public about the safety of recreating on the River.

Real-time reporting of enteroccocus data will be posted every Friday on the LRWP facebook page and website, and through the New York City Water Trail Association’s citizen’s water quality testing program. Users will be able to easily interpret the data as being above or below the recommended water quality standards for primary contact recreation.

Enterococci levels are used as indicators of the possible presence of disease-causing bacteria in recreational waters. Such pathogens may pose health risks to people fishing and swimming in a water body. Sources of bacteria include Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), improperly functioning wastewater treatment plants, stormwater runoff, leaking septic systems, animal carcasses, and runoff from manure storage areas. Enterococci results are reported in Colony Forming Units or CFUs. Suitable levels should not exceed 104 cfu/100mL.

The following are details on our monitoring sites. We will share more information about each location throughout the monitoring period. For more information about the program please contact: info@lowerraritanwatershed.org

LR1 Riverside Park, 430 River Rd, Piscataway40.54067 -74.51219

Wading site. Waders must be worn. Red arrow indicates the sampling location as this is where fishing has been observed. Access the river to the left of the boat ramp (when facing the river). Do not take the sample from the boat ramp as it is too muddy and slippery.

Bathrooms are available at this site from 10am to 2pm


LR2 Rutgers Boathouse, 5 Memorial Pkwy,
New Brunswick
40.48826 -74.43384

Sampling location is in the middle of the Rutgers boathouse dock as indicated in picture. Bathrooms may be available at the boathouse if they are open and at Boyd Park just west of the boathouse.

LR3 Raritan River Boat Launch
& Edison Boat Basin
Meadow Rd, Edison, NJ 08817
40.48769 -74.38409

Sampling location is at the end of the dock. No bathrooms are available at this site.

LR4 Ken Buchanan Riverfront Park
River Road, Sayreville, NJ 08872
40.47483 -74.35586
LR5 Raritan Bay Waterfront Park
201 John T O’Leary Blvd
South Amboy, NJ 08879
*sample off Raritan Reach Road
north of park
40.48334-74.2698

Wading site and waders must be worn. Access the sampling location off the parking lot at the end of Raritan Reach Rd. This is northwest of the park.  The site is a beach. No bathrooms available.

LR6 Perth Amboy Waterfront &
Future 2nd Street Park
45-93 2nd St, Perth Amboy, NJ 08861
40.50007 -74.27719

This is a wading site and waders must be worn. Sampling location is at the beach next to the combined sewer outfall pipe. No bathrooms are available.

June 8 BioBlitz at Elmwood Cemetery!

Registration is now live for the June 8 BioBlitz at Elmwood Cemetery!

A BioBlitz is an event that focuses on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time. At a BioBlitz, scientists, families, students, teachers, and other community members work together to get a snapshot of an area’s biodiversity.

On June 8 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership (LRWP) and partners including the Americorps Watershed Ambassadors Program, New Brunswick Environmental Commission, North Brunswick Environmental Commission, and Elmwood Cemetery will host a day long BioBlitz of Elmwood Cemetery in North Brunswick.

Elmwood Cemetery is a special forested habitat refuge nestled between the urban New and North Brunswick communities. The Cemetery was established in 1868 as a “Victorian Garden Cemetery” during the rural cemetery movement, and to this day all of Elmwood’s lanes and paths are lined with evergreens and flowering native trees. Cemetery managers are building on this legacy of careful planning and land protections to secure Arboretum accreditation, which will allow them to further advance the planting, study, and conservation of woody plants and trees in the area.

Our BioBlitz will include public talks by expert naturalists about local natural history, and a chance for the public to work with these experts in an active survey of mammals, fish, plants, insects, aquatic invertebrates, birds and fungi. Our expert scientists will be stationed at various locations at Elmwood Cemetery to help participants engage in unique research. These scientists are our “team leaders.” We use teams to help organize the science and logistics so that we get as accurate a count as possible of the biodiversity of the area.

Our Expert Scientists:

  • Brionna Primiani (mammals), Wildlife Specialist with New Jersey Wildlife Services
  • Chuck Sedor (fish), New Jersey’s Division of Fish and Wildlife in the Bureau of Freshwater Fisheries
  • Michele Bakacs (plants), Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County
  • Trisha Nichols (insects), Philadelphia Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion
  • Von Scully (aquatic invertebrates) NJ Watershed Ambassadors
  • Laurie Gneiding (birds), NJDEP Ornithologist/Ecologist; NJ Audubon Society
  • Randy Hemminghaus (fungi), The New Jersey Mycological Association

For more information, and to register, see our BioBlitz events page!

May 18 – Watershed Highlights: Duke Island Greenway walking tour

Join LRWP Board Member Professor David Tulloch as he leads our second “Watershed Highlights and Hidden Streams” walking tour of 2019!

Professor Tulloch will help us connect the old constructed landscapes of the canal at Duke Island County Park through a new greenway / bikeway that has been developed along the Raritan and crosses over into the Duke Farms properties. Many area residents are likely familiar with individual pieces of these recreation spaces. Fewer have made the walk to connect them all.

We expect to traverse 3 municipalities (and a named community that locals assume is a 4th municipality), and learn about the role that James Buchanan Duke played in shaping the hydrology of the area including creating multiple dams on the Raritan River to channel water to man-made lakes on the Duke Farms grounds.

Professor Tulloch says: “With the pump house and former dam, I think this will really be more about history than the hidden streams. But there are some interesting spots along the river where small streams contort themselves to cross the greenway.”

Join us from 9-11 AM on Saturday May 18.

Please park at the lot marked as the Raritan River Greenway on Old York Road between Woodmere St and Chestnut St, just barely inside Raritan Borough.

Registration required.

As we will not enter into Duke Park lands, dogs are allowed on this walking tour.

Mile Run Brook Clean-up 2018: The Video!

On May 12, 2018 more than 150 people joined the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, Greater Brunswick Charter School, Esperanza Neighborhood Partnership, Friends of Mile Run Brook and Elmwood Cemetery for a multi-site community clean-up and celebration of New Brunswick’s Mile Run Brook. The clean-up was enlivened by our roving “Trash Troubadour” – Dave Seamon – who engaged our volunteers with song and stories as they cleaned-up the stream.

Our Trash Troubadour traveled with a large sculptural bread-and-puppets style bottle (made from trash found during prior clean-ups) that clean-up volunteers covered with messages of environmental hope. With thanks to all the volunteers for a great day of stewardship and celebration. And huge thanks to filmmaker Jessica Dotson for capturing this story of our wonderful New Brunswick, NJ community.

May 9 – Bacteria Monitoring Workshop

NEEDED!! Volunteer Water Quality Monitors to assist with bacteria monitoring during Summer 2019!

WHAT: Training Workshop for Water Quality Sampling and Bacteria Monitoring

WHEN: Thursday May 9, 1-3:30 PM

WHERE: EARTH Center of Middlesex County, 42 Riva Avenue / South Brunswick, NJ

WHY: Every Thursday from May 23 through September 26 the Lower Raritan Watershed Partnership, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Middlesex County, and Rutgers University will be in the field taking water samples from five public access (non-bathing, fishing, and recreational) sites along our Raritan River. We need volunteers to help us with this important work!

Volunteers will help project coordinators with sample collection, sample preparation and delivery, and analysis.

Directions to the EARTH Center-

We are located at 42 Riva Ave. in South Brunswick (note our mailing address says North Brunswick but you should use South Brunswick for your GPS). We are located in Davidson Mill Pond Park. When you come into the park follow the road around to the right and then go through the gate. Ignore the sign that says authorized vehicles only. Our building is down the road on the right with the green roof. Parking is right in front of the building. It’s a small place so you will find the room very easily. It’s right when you walk in.

South of New Jersey Turnpike Exit 8A – Cranbury/Jamesburg

Take Exit 8A towards Cranbury. Keep right, follow signs for Cranbury South Brunswick. Take Stults Road to US-130 North and make a right on US-130. In 4 miles make a right onto Old Georges Road and turn right onto Riva Ave. The EARTH Center will be on your right.

North of New Jersey Turnpike Exit 9 – New Brunswick

Turn off at Exit 9 (New Brunswick) and keep right towards Route 18 North. Use the right lane to merge onto US-1 S via the ramp to Trenton/Princeton. Use the right 2 lanes to take the US-130 S ramp to Camden. In 2 miles make a left onto Davidson Mill Rd. and turn right onto Riva Ave. The entrance to Davidson Mill Pond park and the EARTH Center will be on your left.

From Route 1, North of New Brunswick

Follow directions above from Route 1 on.

From Route 1, South of South Brunswick

Take Route 1 North. Turn Right onto Deans lane. Turn right onto Deans Lane. Turn left onto Georges Road. Continue straight onto Distribution Way for 0.4 miles. Distribution Way turns slightly right and becomes Old Georges Road. Turn right onto Riva Ave and The EARTH Center will be on your right.

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