Auger Slice of Barnegat Bay Soil

Barnegat Bay Research on Subaqueous Soils

Estuaries and shallow coastal waters are among the most productive habitats on earth, yet consistent and comprehensive baseline environmental data is generally lacking for these areas. Almost two-thirds of the world’s population lives in coastal areas, and it is estimated that 75% of the US population will do so in the next 25 years. An important data set is the soil / sediment type in the subaqueous and coastal area connecting the upland with the deep water environment (Payne, 2011). Research efforts by soil scientists in Maryland have demonstrated that shallow water sediments undergo pedogenic processes and are systematically distributed across the subaqueous landscape (Demas and Rabenhorst, 2001). Over the past 10 years, NRCS soil scientists have shown that these areas can be inventoried using procedures established by the National Cooperative Soil Survey. NOAA’s Coastal and Marine Ecological Classification Standard (CMECS) has adopted the NCSS nomenclature for classifying the sub-benthic environment, and this system is currently in review by the Federal Geographic Data Committee as a national standard.

“The soils map is advance, draft information and subject to change upon the final correlation and publication of the Barnegat Bay Subaqueous Soil Survey.  The soils map is not SSURGO certified and has not been authorized for National publication.  Please use the information accordingly.”

View Subaqueous Soils in a larger map

A Barnegat Bay subaqueous soil survey map will provide information on the depth, slope, physical and chemical properties of the sediments, useful for aquatic vegetation restoration, shellfish habitat, dredge management, carbon storage capability, and other applications.  Field Notes and pedon descriptions will be collected at particular Locations  throughout Barnegat Bay to document the differing soil types and landforms.  A soil map unit legend  is developed using the field documentation and soil types.  All soils and observations are classified using the 2010 Eleventh Edition Keys to Soil Taxonomy (USDA-NRCS).  A soil survey database (NASIS) will be built using the bay field note documentation and laboratory analysis to support publication of the soil survey.  All of the information presented here on this website is preliminary and subject to change upon final correlation and publication of the Barnegat Bay Subaqueous Soil Survey.


Barnegat Bay Partnership News – NRCS has prepared a general subaqueous soils map for the northern and central portions of Barnegat Barnegat Bay. 

Newly Published  in the January Issue of CSA News as the feature article – “Underwater Soils”



Barnegat Bay Subaqueous Soil Survey Now Available Online!

“The Barnegat Bay Subaqueous Soil Survey, is now available on the Web Soil Survey (WSS), the web-based database managed by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). The addition of this unique soils inventory of the Bay’s estuary and coastal lagoon to the Ocean County Soil Survey expands the utility of the online resource and has the potential to help improve the health of the estuary, enhancing the bay for future generations

To read the press release of The Subaqueous Survey of Barnegat Bay follow the link below:
Subaqueous Survey of Barnegat Bay

OCSCD Technical Staff Assist USDA NRCS with Soil Sampling in the Barnegat Bay Watershed:

(October, 2020) OCSCD Erosion Control Specialists Brittany Moore & Kristin Adams, along with Inspectors Ramon Mejia, Georgie Grieb & Sean Yeats recently assisted MLRA Soil Scientist David Steinmann of the USDA – Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Coastal Zone Soil Survey (CZSS) with data collection in the tidal marsh of the Barnegat Bay as part of an EPA Regional Applied Research Effort (RARE) grant project.


By Rob Tunstead, NRCS MLRA Soil Survey Office Leader

At 25 selected sampling sites throughout the estuary the Barnegat Bay Partnership (BBP) is conducting habitat and biological studies, while the NRCS is collecting soil samples. Three vibracores are retrieved by the NRCS at each site location; vibracoring is a sediment sampling methodology used to retrieve a continuous, relatively undisturbed sample of unconsolidated saturated soil materials.

Two vibracores are examined in the field, then sent to a local lab where they are spilt open, photographed, described, and sampled by soil scientists from the Hammonton Soil Survey Office. After this initial sampling work, they are sent to the NRCS’s Kellogg Soil Survey Lab (KSSL) for complete soil analysis. The third vibracore is sent to a separate team at the KSSL for “whole core” blue carbon analysis.

Thanks to this joint collaborative effort by the BBP and NRCS, soils data is contributing to two important research projects – the BBP’s study of the degradation of coastal tidal wetlands in the Barnegat Bay estuary and the NRCS’s study of the amount of blue carbon stored within this valuable coastal ecosystem. The results of this project will help inform local partners in their efforts to protect and restore the deteriorating but critical tidal wetlands in our watershed.

Ocean County Soil Conservation District
714 Lacey Road
Forked River, NJ 08731
(609) 971-7002