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News Release

Subaqueous Survey of Barnegat Bay now available online

Barbara Phillips, Public Affairs Specialist

NRCS soil scientists and student intern at work in Barnegat Bay

SOMERSET, NJ, November 28, 2016 - For the past five years, a team of soil scientists, partner groups and volunteers has conducted intensive sampling and characterization efforts at the bottom of Barnegat Bay, surveying more than 70,000 acres of the Bay’s subaqueous soils. Their work contributed to the Barnegat Bay Subaqueous Soil Survey, now available on the Web Soil Survey (WSS), the web-based database managed by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The addition of this unique soils inventory of the Bay’s estuary and coastal lagoon to the Ocean County Soil Survey expands the utility of the online resource and has the potential to help improve the health of the estuary, enhancing the bay for future generations.

Barnegat Bay, approximately 41 miles long from the Bay Head area to Little Egg, has experienced a significant decline in water quality and changes in species diversity in recent years. This new data can help government leaders, planners, agencies, non-profit groups, and environmental groups make informed decisions about land-use and restoration projects in the Bay. 

Soil surveys include “interpretations” or ratings for the soils described in them. With the addition of this new data collected over the last five years, the Ocean County Survey now includes interpretations to assess site suitability for installing structures like boat moorings, developing habitat for shellfish like eastern oyster or hard clam, or restoring Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV) and to guide land utilization of dredged materials (based on acid-producing potential). The current release is a first-draft product that will be improved and field-verified as future restoration and aquaculture projects provide more data about the Bay and the composition of the soil beneath it.

Groups that assisted NRCS soil scientists with the cooperative survey include the Barnegat Bay Partnership, Save Barnegat Bay, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Ocean County Soil District, Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve, Stockton University, ReClam the Bay, Rutgers University, US Geological Survey, and US Fish and Wildlife Service. Several of these are new partnerships that have resulted in further collaborative projects. In addition, twenty-nine volunteers contributed 800 hours to the soil survey project.

Web Soil Survey (WSS) provides soil data and information produced by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. It is operated by NRCS and provides access to the largest natural resource information system in the world. The site is updated and maintained online as the single authoritative source of soil survey information. Four basic steps provided on the WSS site ( explain how to navigate the site.

Barnegat Bay scenicRecent meteorological events have emphasized the need for and creation of a new NRCS initiative called the Coastal Zone Soil Survey (CZSS). This new initiative will focus on updating both spatial and attribute database information in and along many immediate coastlines which would include salt marshes, the lagoons themselves, and the barrier islands. The new information along with the subaqueous soil survey will portray a more accurate inventory of the soil resources within the coastal zone areas, providing further assistance to those groups and individuals faced with land management decisions in areas experiencing significant climate change and sea-level rise conditions.

Soils data has been provided through the WSS for over ten years, and WSS has become the number one USDA web portal providing soils information to an international community. Users can view summaries of soil types for any geographic location where NRCS soil data exists.

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