Principles and objectives of the Campus Biodiversity working group:
The Richard Stockton College Campus is a premier resource for teaching, research and service related to the environment. The campus consists of a wide variety of upland and lowland forest types, old fields, managed lawns and gardens, streams, lakes, ponds, borrow pits, etc. all these areas provide habitat for a wide range of native and introduced species. To date, there has been little effort to plan for the protection and maintenance of this biodiversity beyond the minimum requirements of state regulations.
The College's Master Plan should:
1. Conserve upland pine barren habitats and reverse the decline in biodiversity. We should develop a cooperative effort with the NJ Conservation Foundation and the Natural Lands Trust on ecological restoration in our uplands.
2. Work with the NJ Pinelands Commission, the County of Atlantic and other groups to restore the campus lakes and streams by controlling stormwater and nutrient inputs through Best Management Practices and use of native, low-maintenance landscaping.
3. Link these efforts to current projects: new dorms, student center and academic buildings, the campus arboretum, the reforestation required by NJ DEP, and development of a campus forest management plan.
These initiatives will give Stockton a resource for education, research and public service that will attract significant outside support and provide many internship and service learning opportunities for students. Savings on environmental compliance and maintenance and recognition of Stockton as a model environmental institution will help offset the cost of sustaining a biodiverse campus.
Failure to act will lead to loss of biodiversity on campus. Wetlands are protected by state regulations and the Campus Master Plan, but uplands, which are just as ecologically important, may be converted to other uses. Pine and oak savannas are the most critically endangered habitats in southern NJ. In the past twenty years, upland areas have gone to housing, parking lots, playing fields, and even a golf practice range. Landscaping has introduced non-native grasses near buildings and roads, which encourages deer and goose overpopulation, pollutes lakes and streams with sediment and nutrients from lawn fertilizer and adds to greenhouse gas emissions from maintenance equipment. Light from parking lots and buildings has affected the distinctive pine barrens moth fauna.
Fire suppression has converted uplands into less diverse heath understory, eliminating populations of distinctive pine barrens plants, like pixie moss and turkey beard from the campus. Fire suppression also increases the danger of catastrophic wildfires by allowing combustible vegetation to increase in height and mass.
Planning for biodiversity as part of the master plan update requires broad involvement by the faculty and students, Academic Affairs, Campus Planning and Plant Management as well as by potential outside cooperators.