Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer Project

map of landmarks in the Kirkwood-Cohansey Aquifer Project

Introduction & Project Cooperators

In 2001, the New Jersey Legislature directed the Pinelands Commission to prepare an assessment of the key hydrologic and ecological information needed to determine how the current and future water-supply needs within the Pinelands area may be met while protecting the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer system and avoiding any adverse ecological impact on the New Jersey Pinelands area. The assessment was implemented by the Pinelands Commission in cooperation with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Rutgers University, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, and the United States Geological Survey.

The project addressed two major research questions:

  1. What are the probable hydrologic effects of groundwater diversions from the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer on stream flows and wetland water levels?
  2. What are the probable ecological effects of induced stream-flow and groundwater-level changes on aquatic and wetland communities?

The approach used to answer these two related research questions included several coordinated steps. First, study areas were selected. A detailed study of these representative areas provided the information needed to develop and implement groundwater-flow models that can be used to predict the probable hydrologic changes resulting from groundwater diversions. Next, ecological models that relate the distribution of biological communities and individual species to stream flow or the depth, duration, and frequency of saturation and flooding were developed. A series of ecological-process indicators were studied to examine the potential effect of altered hydrological regimes on wetland nitrogen cycling. Finally, the ecological models were linked to the hydrologic models to evaluate the possible landscape-level ecological effects of different water-diversion scenarios.

For more information on the overall project, go to:

The Grant F. Walton Center for Remote Sensing & Spatial Analysis at the School of Environmental & Biological Sciences, Rutgers University, New Brunswick undertook the ecological-process Indicators and landscape modeling components of the larger project.

Landscape Models

Richard G. Lathrop, Ph.D.

The ecological models developed by Pinelands Commission scientists as part of their study of wetland species and communities were translated by Rutgers University scientists into GIS-based models that have been used to estimate the effects of hydrologic changes across the landscape of the study areas. The GIS-based species and community gradient models have been used to assess the landscape-scale distribution of community types and individual species and their response to changes in hydrologic regime.

View the final report (1.56m PDF)

Ecological-process Indicators: Nitrogen

Joan G. Ehrenfeld, Ph.D.

Variations in nitrogen content and dynamics in forest soils are frequently associated with soil moisture. A laboratory and field study, conducted by Rutgers University scientists, assessed whether unsaturated conditions associated with lowered water-table levels promote increased nitrogen mineralization and nitrification in dry pine-lowland, wet pine-lowland, and cedar swamps soils, resulting in pulses of mineral nitrogen to wetland systems.

View the final report (272k PDF)

Published article from the journal Soil Biology and Biochemistry (529k PDF)