Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge (Barnegat)
Ecology and ManagementThe Barnegat impoundments are in the central section of the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge along Barnegat Bay in Ocean County, New Jersey. They are less visited than the extremely popular Wildlife Drive impoundments to the south (also in Forsythe NWR), but they are popular birding spots nonetheless. For example, Barnes (2009) reports 3,800 Greater Scaup, 230 Northern Shovelers, and 200 Northern Pintail using the impoundments during spring migration. Shorebirds and herons are also plentiful where mudflats and shallow waters occur. The site is included in both the International Shorebird Survey (ISS; Chan and Schulte 2008) and the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring (IWMM) programs. Forsythe NWR as a whole is designated a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site due to its abundant wetlands and location along the Atlantic Flyway.
The impoundments were originally created as a joint effort of state wildlife and county mosquito control agencies in the late 1960s, and were later acquired by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as part of Forsythe NWR. Due to their distance from headquarters and structural problems associated with their construction, water levels have not been actively managed at this site for some time. Some efforts were made in the 2000s to rehabilitate them in partnership with Ducks Unlimited. However, due to further storm damage, at least two of the five are breached and open to tidal flow, and the other three currently have non-functional water control structures. Forsythe recently performed an engineering assessment of all dams on the refuge including the Barnegat dikes. This, along with a habitat value assessment, resulted in the current plan to transition them from freshwater impoundments back to unmanaged, tidal ecosystems.
Frequent overtopping and structural instability make the Barnegat impoundments extremely vulnerable to sea level rise and storms.
The number of visitors to the Barnegat area of Forsythe NWR is unknown, but the refuge as a whole receives well over 250,000 visitors per year. The Barnegat impoundments are a popular birding spot, and are designated an Important Bird Area due to the abundance and diversity of coastal birds using the site. Approximately 3.9 million people live within 100 kilometers of Edwin B. Forsythe NWR.
We are grateful to Paul M. Castelli and Virginia Rettig (Forsythe NWR) and Joseph Schmidt (Ocean County Mosquito Extermination Commission) for providing helpful information used on this page.