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Inner Coastal Plain

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About the Inner Coastal Plain

The Inner Coastal Plain is a region located entirely within New Jersey, stretching from the more inland areas of south Jersey, northeast to the Raritan bay.

This region is a gently rolling plain underlain mostly by unconsolidated gravel, sand, and clay, with a few partly hardened sands and gravels forming low ridges at the southeastern border of this region. The sediments here tend to be older and more consolidated than the more coastal areas to the southeast, but much less consolidated than the Triassic Lowlands to the northwest. Compared to the pine barrens, the soils here have more clay and are more fertile and better at retaining water.

Original forest cover here probably consisted of mixed oak and beech-oak forest, with dominant tree species being white oak (Quercus alba), black oak (Quercus velutina), American beech (Fagus grandifolia), pignut hickory (Carya glabra), mockernut hickory, black walnut, tulip tree, and red maple. This cover contrasts with the oak-pine forest found in the pine barrens to the southeast. The wettest sites, mostly on low-lying depressions underlain by clay soils, had open wetlands with cattails and annual wildrice (Zizania aquatica).

Most of the forest here has been cleared for agriculture or urban and suburban development. Natural wetlands form the largest remaining wild areas, but many of them have been invaded by common reed (Phragmites australis). Agriculture here is extensive and diversified, including production of corn, wheat, vegetables, dairy, and poultry. This area contains part of the Philadelphia metro area, most of the Trento metro area, and significant decentralized suburban development around smaller cities and towns north to about Woodbridge Township. The low-density suburban development takes up a large portion of the land. Small, fragmented portions of forest exist interspersed with suburban development in the north, and along riparian areas throughout. This area also has extensive transportation infrastructure, including both roads and rail, which further fragment wild areas.

This area is bordered to the southeast by the Pine Barrens, which are also interspersed with it in a few spots. South of about Trenton, this region is bordered to the southeast and northwest by the Delaware River Terraces and Uplands. North of Trenton, this region is bordered to the northwest by the Triassic Lowlands, except in a tiny spot where it borders a narrow piece of the Trap Rock and Conglomerate Uplands, and the very north where it borders the Glaciated Triassic Lowlands.

Holmdel Park in Monmouth County, NJ, shows scenery typical of the more rural parts of the Inner Coastal Plain. The wetland here has been invaded by phragmites, a common sight throughout this region. Most of the region is more suburbanized that the scene pictured here. Photo © David Pfeffer, CC BY 2.0.

References

1. Woods, A.J., Omernik, J.M., Moran, B.C. "Level III and IV Ecoregions of New Jersey", (2007) Web.