CRSSA Land Cover Change Animation of New Jersey: 1600 to 2050

This historical land cover and forest mapping project was led at CRSSA by Center Director, Richard G. Lathrop, and produced for the Newark Museum. Funding provided by the Newark Museum with support from The Lucy & Elanor S. Upton Charitable Foundation and The Charles E. and Edna T. Brundage Foundation. The maps and animation were on display at the Newark Museum in support of the exhibit, 'Skies Alive: Bird Migration in the Garden State' (exhibit run: April 22, 2009 ndash; April 2010).


What was the extent of New Jersey's forests and wetlands in 1600?

What will it be in 2050?

CRSSA researchers posed these questions and responded by producing a timeline of natural land cover change maps and a visualization of these results.

The CRSSA Natural Land Cover Change Animation gives a unique look at New Jersey's landscape through four centuries of time. Start back in 1600 and travel to 2050, and view the changes in the natural land cover types of forest, freshwater wetland, and coastal wetland.


1600 Before European colonization, the New Jersey landscape was a mosaic of upland forests and shrublands, freshwater swamps and marshes, coastal wetlands and water.

1700  The major river valleys of the Delaware, Raritan and Hackensack provided early avenues of European settlement.


The New Jersey landscape started to undergo a major transformation as forests were cleared for farming or cut for timber or charcoal.

1900 By 1900, New Jersey’s forests began to rebound from the massive clearing thatreached its peak extent in the mid 1800s.

Post World War II suburbanization is just beginning, though much of this early urban expansion is on active or recently abandoned farmland at the periphery of major urban centers.

1972 Suburban sprawl begins in earnest with farm and forest lands converted to residential and commercial development in formerly rural counties.

Loss of forests in the New Jersey Pine Barrens initiates the creation of the New
Jersey Pinelands National Reserve in 1978 to preserve this unique ecosystem.


Conversion of forest to suburban sprawl extends further from the urban core with the completion and expansion of major state and interstate highways.


Extensive clearing of forests due to increased residential development in the New Jersey Highlands prompts major concern over the future of these important watershed and habitat lands.


Projected future landscape showing continued forest conversion to development, though extensive forest lands remains in the Pinelands, Highlands and Kittatiny Ridge due to regional planning and open space protection efforts.

While efforts have been made to ensure that these data are accurate and reliable within the state of the art, Rutgers University cannot assume liability for any damages, or misrepresentations, caused by any inaccuracies in the data, or as a result of the data to be used on a particular system. Rutgers University make no warranty, expressed or implied, nor does the fact of distribution constitute such a warranty.  Any maps, publications, reports or any other type of document produced as a result of an associated project utilizing Center for Remote Sensing and Spatial Analysis (CRSSA), Rutgers University, data will credit the original author(s) as listed in the report and web site.