Threats and challenges to our inland pine barrens
The future of the inland pine barrens is in our hands. Habitat loss, fire suppression and the spread of invasive species, as well as more global issues like climate change, pose serious challenges to the health and survival of this ecosystem. Without the intervention of people to conserve the Albany Pine Bush, it would likely disappear.
The Albany Pine Bush once covered over 25,000 acres. Today, less than 6,000 acres of wild habitat remains.
Habitat loss is the number one most pressing threat to the future of the inland pine barrens ecosystem. Commercial and residential development, gaining momentum in the 1970s and persisting through today, has chipped away at the inland pine barrens. Roads, buildings and parking lots separate what remains of this landscape into disconnected fragments. Less habitat and more barriers to dispersal create difficult living conditions for pine barrens species and threatens their future.
Pine barrens are fire-dependent ecosystems.
Without fire, the open canopy of the pitch pine-scrub oak barrens transforms into a closed canopy forest, starting an ecological ripple effect with wide reaching consequences. As the barrens fills in, rare species like the Karner blue butterfly and frosted elfin lose critical habitat, contributing to their risk of extinction.
We use prescribed fire to maintain and restore the pine barrens and its many rare wildlife species.
To learn more about our use of prescribed fire, click here.
As their name suggests, invasive species are living things that have the potential to "invade" an area and aggressively replace native species.
These plants, animals and other organisms are either accidentally or intentionally introduced from one region of the planet to another with devastating results. Fire suppression and fragmentation of the inland pine barrens accelerates the spread of invasives by creating new avenues for invasives to enter the ecosystem.
Purple loosestrife, Japanese knotweed and garlic mustard are some of the more commonly known invasive species in our area. In the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, black locust and other invasives have transformed hundreds of acres of pine barrens into significantly less diverse habitats of little value to pine barrens wildlife.
For information on how the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is controlling invasive species in the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, click here.
The effects that global climate change will have on the inland pine barrens ecosystem are not well understood at this time. Increased average temperature and precipitation are predicted to affect the inland pine barrens and the species that live here, but we do not yet know in what way(s). The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is working with partners including The Nature Conservancy and the federal Karner Blue Butterfly Recovery Team to understand the potential ramifications of altered winter and summer conditions on the Karner blue butterfly. If you're interested in helping to build our understanding of this complex issue, the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission is seeking volunteers who live in close proximity to the preserve to assist with our Community Science Snowpack Monitoring project. For more information on this volunteer opportunity, click here.
The Preserve is not complete.
Prescribed Fire Video