Featuring rare ecosystems flourishing atop a fragile lens of freshwater and sandy soils, the Pinelands contains globally rare plants and animals, including the silver-bordered fritillary, pine barrens tree frog and swamp pink. Covering some 1.1 million acres, the land was designated part of the UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1988.
Much of the Pinelands overlies the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer, a shallow, unconfined “water table” and an irreplaceable source of clean drinking water. However, the resource is increasingly under threat by local demand for drinking water.
Protecting the Pinelands
Since small changes in the water table can have outsized impacts on fragile wetland ecology, protection of the Pinelands is paramount—loss of land around the edges of the pinelands continues and the time has come to act.
Since we still know very little about how different water uses affect aquifers, restoring the aquifer may be more complex than restoring a watershed. Down the line, controlling large allocations for drinking water and commercial wells will only be even more politically complicated.
In this environment, land protection takes an important role, along with advocacy and public education, regulatory enforcement and market-based innovations.