FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 30, 2008

CONTACT: Sebastian D’Elia, 908-527-4419
Tina Casey, 908-527-4346

 

NATURE MAKES A HOME IN UNION COUNTY
Hundreds of species thrive in County parks

Students sample an estuary at Mattano Park during the 2008 Union County Bio-Blitz. Photo by Jonathan Phillips
Students sample an estuary at Mattano Park during the 2008 Union County Bio-Blitz. Photo by Jonathan Phillips

Elizabeth, NJ – Union County residents are used to sharing their neighborhoods with deer, Canada geese, and assorted squirrels and pigeons. But a closer look reveals much more. A
one-day Bio-Blitz of county parks catalogued a total of 577 animal, plant and insect species in just one 24-hour period.

“It is gratifying to see that our urban communities can host such healthy diversity,” said Freeholder Chairman Angel G. Estrada. “Thanks are due to the many Union County residents who support open space preservation and backyard habitats.”

The around-the-clock survey covered 312 acres along the Elizabeth River Parkway in parts of Elizabeth, Hillside, and Union. Two of the more unusual bird finds were yellow-crowned and black-crowned night heron. Both are on the federal threatened species list.

In the Elizabeth River, pumpkinseed sunfish and brown bullhead were among the native fish that turned up. Even a non-native goldfish appeared. Surveyors also spotted the small, hardy mummichog, which is known as the first fish in outer space. It won the honor in 1973, as a passenger aboard Skylab 3.

Among the 168 plant species were the expected crowd of reeds and other invasive plants. Surveyors were also pleased to find spicebush, honewort, Jack-in-the-pulpit and other native species.

Mushrooms, slime molds and other fungi made a good showing. So did pinhead-sized microfungi, which play an important role in decomposition.

The Elizabeth River Parkway is part of the Union County Parks System. The original parks were laid out alongside streams and rivers. The long, meandering greenways provide recreation, natural storm drainage, and habitat for migrating birds and many other species.

Volunteers, non-profit organizations and partners have made Bio-Blitz possible every year since 2005. This year, Union County’s major partner and sponsor were Kean University and Schering Plough. Groundwork Elizabeth brought an enthusiastic group of 50 high school volunteers.

Other partners were Auburn University, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Colonia High School Fishing Club, Elizabeth River/Arthur Kill Watershed Association, Elizabeth High School Lower Academy, Friends of Lenape Park, Jenkinson’s Aquarium, National Biodiversity Parks, Inc., NJ Mycological Association, NJDEP Fish & Wildlife, NJDEP AmeriCorps Watershed Ambassador Program, The Staten Island Zoo, Union County’s Trailside Nature and Science Center, and the Union County Parks Advisory Board.

For more volunteer opportunities in Union County parks, contact Adopt-a-Trail or Adopt-a-Park at 908-527-4900.

Free advice on backyard habitats is available from the Master Gardeners of Union County at
908-654-9852. A “Backyard Habitat” exhibit is also on view at the Union County Trailside Nature and Science Center. Call 908-789-3670 for more information.

Visit http://www.ucnj.org/greenconnect for links to all Union County environmental resources.