A recent survey of the Meadowlands, a wetlands area in New Jersey revealed 78 bee species living there. Francisco J. Artigas, executive director of the Meadowlands Environmental Research Institute, said “I was amazed by the amount of bee species found. I was thinking 12, maybe 13 species.” The news about so many bee species there is surprising, especially considering the recent severe decline of bees in many countries, called colony collapse disorder. Two of the species found baffled local researchers, the European thistle bee, and the African red bee. They contacted the American Museum of Natural History, for help with their identification. The museum has a bee collection representing 7,000 species. The bee survey was part of a larger biological study to determine what species are living in the Meadowlands, and how many are there.
The Meadowlands are about 8,400 acres of open land, including natural wetlands. Dekorte Park is known for excellent bird watching. Reportedly, the Meadowlands used to be three times as large,
“At one time stretching over 32 square miles and encompassing nearly 25,000 acres of wetlands and waterways, the Meadowlands has been reduced to only a third of its former size.”
It actually used to have thousands of acres of cedar trees, but that was centuries ago. They were cut down either so the cedar wood could be used for construction, or to eliminate hiding places for pirates, “…5,500 acres of cedar swamps in the Hackensack meadowlands were burned in 1791 to eliminate hiding places for pirates who preyed on shipping in Newark Bay (Kantor & Pierson, 1985; Schmid, 1987).”
The Hackensack River is part of the ecosystem. It was once considered to be one of the most polluted waterways in the country, but has been better taken care of since the establishment of a commission to oversee its natural resources. Conservation groups like Hackensack Riverkeeper work to restore and protect the area. An article written about the aquatic species there stated there could have been 200 edible shellfish and finfish species centuries ago, but industrial pollution cut that number down to about one. By 1998, that number may have climbed to 43. Robert Sullivan’s article, “I Sing the Meadowlands”, is quite an insightful journey into the area’s natural features and industrial history.
“I marvel that the land before me was called ”a swampy, mosquito-infested jungle. . .where rusting auto bodies, demolition rubble, industrial oil and cattails merge in unholy union” by the authors of a 1978 Federal report, and that it is now a good place to see a black-crowned night heron or a pie-billed grebe or 18 species of ladybugs, even if some of the water these creatures fly over can sometimes be the color of antifreeze.”
Image Credit: TonytheMisfit