Coastal Plain Pond

Sandy Pond East
Stephen M. Young

Natural Lakes And Ponds
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Imperiled in New York - Very vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to rarity or other factors; typically 6 to 20 populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Vulnerable globally, or Apparently Secure - At moderate risk of extinction, with relatively few populations or locations in the world, few individuals, and/or restricted range; or uncommon but not rare globally; may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors. More information is needed to assign either G3 or G4.


Did you know?

Coastal plain ponds contain an interesting group of species known as bladderworts. Most of the bladderwort plant lies underwater or in the wet soil with only a flowering stem rising above. These species are carnivorous and are common in these nutrient poor ponds. They trap small insects and even microscopic organisms in sophisticated "bladder" traps. When an insect brushes up against tiny hairs on the bladder it triggers the trap to snap shut. This process takes only thousandths of a second (Lloyd, F.E. 1942).

State Ranking Justification

There are few documented sites for coastal plain ponds in New York. Many more exist as evidenced by the the corresponding documentation for coastal plain pond shores (nearly 60 documented). With that said, these ponds have a restricted range in New York and are found only in the coastal plain region. In addition to having a limited range, the ponds are threatened by introductions of exotic species, alterations to hydrology and water quality, commercial and residential development, recreational overuse, and by herbicide use.

Short-term Trends

Coastal plain ponds are probably continuing to see a slow decline in abundance. Changes in hydrology such as an increased demand for fresh water caused by a steady increase in development will continue to lower the water table and result in a drying up of some of the ponds. There are about 27 acres currently mapped and probably less than 200 acres extant. The historical acreage of these ponds is unknown but was probably less than 500 acres. Old maps of Long Island show more and larger ponds in the early 1900s (South Fork Natural History Society 1993).

Long-term Trends

The historical acreage of coastal plain ponds is unknown although it was estimated to be less than 500 acres. There are hand drawn maps of some ponds on Long Island from as early as the 1700s. Many of these ponds are gone or have been significantly reduced in size (South Fork Natural History Society Newsletter 1993).

Conservation and Management


The ponds are threatened by the introduction of grass carp, alterations to hydrology or water quality, and herbicide use intended to clear aquatic "weeds" from ponds for swimming and boating. Off-road vehicles, trampling of pond shore vegetation and the presence and introduction of non-native plants and animals (including from fish stocking and bait) are also potential threats to the quality of the pond community. The most significant threat to the hydrology of these ponds comes from an increase in commercial and residential development causing an increase in the demand for fresh water. This can cause a drawdown of the water table and a drying up or decrease in size of these ponds.

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Probably the most critical issues regarding management for coastal plain ponds are the maintenance of a natural hydrologic regime and good water quality. Water supplies for new development and ditching, draining or impoundment activities should be looked at closely. Storm water run-off, herbicide and pesticide use should also be considered in any management program. Where practical, establish and maintain a natural wetland buffer to reduce storm-water, pollution, and nutrient run-off, while simultaneously capturing sediments before they reach the wetland. Buffer width should take into account the erodibility of the surrounding soils, slope steepness, and current land use. Wetlands protected under Article 24 are known as New York State "regulated" wetlands. The regulated area includes the wetlands themselves, as well as a protective buffer or "adjacent area" extending 100 feet landward of the wetland boundary (NYS DEC 1995). If possible, minimize the number and size of impervious surfaces in the surrounding landscape. Avoid habitat alteration within the wetland and surrounding landscape. For example, roads and trails should be routed around wetlands, and ideally not pass through the buffer area. If the wetland must be crossed, then bridges and boardwalks are preferred over filling. Restore ponds that have been unnaturally disturbed (e.g., remove obsolete impoundments and ditches in order to restore the natural hydrology). Prevent the spread of invasive exotic species into the wetland through appropriate direct management, and by minimizing potential dispersal corridors, such as roads.

Development and Mitigation Considerations

When considering road construction and other development activities minimize actions that will change what water carries and how water travels to this community, both on the surface and underground. Water traveling over-the-ground as run-off usually carries an abundance of silt, clay, and other particulates during (and often after) a construction project. While still suspended in the water, these particulates make it difficult for aquatic animals to find food; after settling to the bottom of the wetland, these particulates bury small plants and animals and alter the natural functions of the community in many other ways. Thus, road construction and development activities near this community type should strive to minimize particulate-laden run-off into this community. Water traveling on the ground or seeping through the ground also carries dissolved minerals and chemicals. Road salt, for example, is becoming an increasing problem both to natural communities and as a contaminant in household wells. Fertilizers, detergents, and other chemicals that increase the nutrient levels in wetlands cause algae blooms and eventually an oxygen-depleted environment where few animals can live. Herbicides and pesticides often travel far from where they are applied and have lasting effects on the quality of the natural community. So, road construction and other development activities should strive to consider: 1. how water moves through the ground, 2. the types of dissolved substances these development activities may release, and 3. how to minimize the potential for these dissolved substances to reach this natural community.

Inventory Needs

The inventory needs for coastal plain ponds includes the documentation of additional sites and more intensive surveys of known sites. To better document this natural community, plot data in both deepwater and nearshore areas is needed. In addition, a more comprehensive plant species list is needed. Other sampling that needs to be done for community documentation includes an inventory of animal species especially invertebrates and some type of systematic sampling of water quality.

Research Needs

Research is needed to fill information gaps about these ponds and pond systems, especially to document differences between other types of ponds in the coastal plain area. In addition, research is needed to document variation between coastal plain ponds with regards to elevation, distance from the coast and other variables.

Rare Species

  • Aeshna clepsydra (Mottled Darner) (guide)
  • Ambystoma tigrinum (Tiger Salamander) (guide)
  • Anax longipes (Comet Darner) (guide)
  • Chamaecyparis thyoides (Atlantic White Cedar) (guide)
  • Chenopodium berlandieri var. macrocalycium (Large-calyxed Goosefoot) (guide)
  • Coreopsis rosea (Rose Coreopsis) (guide)
  • Diospyros virginiana (Persimmon) (guide)
  • Eleocharis ambigens (Ambiguous Spike Rush) (guide)
  • Eleocharis equisetoides (Horsetail Spike Rush) (guide)
  • Eleocharis tuberculosa (Long-tubercled Spike Rush) (guide)
  • Eleocharis uniglumis (Single-glumed Spike Rush) (guide)
  • Enallagma laterale (New England Bluet) (guide)
  • Enallagma minusculum (Little Bluet) (guide)
  • Enallagma pictum (Scarlet Bluet) (guide)
  • Enallagma recurvatum (Pine Barrens Bluet) (guide)
  • Enallagma weewa (Blackwater Bluet) (guide)
  • Enneacanthus obesus (Banded Sunfish) (guide)
  • Epitheca semiaquea (Mantled Baskettail) (guide)
  • Etheostoma fusiforme (Swamp Darter) (guide)
  • Hottonia inflata (American Featherfoil) (guide)
  • Iris prismatica (Slender Blue Flag) (guide)
  • Ischnura ramburii (Rambur's Forktail) (guide)
  • Libellula auripennis (Golden-winged Skimmer) (guide)
  • Libellula needhami (Needham's Skimmer) (guide)
  • Ludwigia sphaerocarpa (Globe-fruited Seed-Box) (guide)
  • Myriophyllum pinnatum (Cut-leaved Water Milfoil) (guide)
  • Nehalennia integricollis (Southern Sprite) (guide)
  • Orontium aquaticum (Golden Club) (guide)
  • Potamogeton diversifolius (Southern Snailseed Pondweed) (guide)
  • Progomphus obscurus (Common Sanddragon) (guide)
  • Proserpinaca pectinata (Comb-leaved Mermaid Weed) (guide)
  • Rhionaeschna mutata (Spatterdock Darner) (guide)
  • Utricularia radiata (Small Swollen Bladderwort) (guide)


New York State Distribution

In New York, coastal plain ponds are restricted to the coastal lowlands in Suffolk County often in a pine barrens setting. The historical range is unknown but may have extended west to Nassau County and the New York City area.

Global Distribution

These types of ponds could occur on coastal plains worldwide. Here in North America this type of pond community can occur along the coastal plain in glacial outwash from Ontario and possibly Nova Scotia south to Long Island, New York, and to the coastal plain of New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. This community could also range south to the coastal plain of Virginia and the Carolinas (Kartesz 1999). Good examples are documented from the coastal plain in New York, Maryland, and Delaware and in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.

Best Places to See

  • Robert Cushman Murphy County Park (Suffolk County)
  • Peconic River SCFWH (Suffolk County)
  • Montauk Point State Park (Suffolk County)
  • Alewife-Scoy Pond Wetlands SCFWH (Suffolk County)

Identification Comments

General Description

A coastal plain pond with seasonally, and annually fluctuating water levels. These are shallow, groundwater-fed ponds that occur in kettle-holes or shallow depressions on Long Island. A group of coastal plain ponds are often hydrologically connected. The pond vegetation may be abundant. Some characteristic plants include water-shield (Brasenia schreberi), white water-lily (Nymphaea odorata), bayonet-rush (Juncus militaris), spikerush (Eleocharis robbinsii), and bladderworts (Utricularia purpurea, U. fibrosa).

Characters Most Useful for Identification

This is a permanent pond with a widely fluctuating water table. The pond may have abundant floating, emergent and submerged aquatic vegetation including bladderworts and waterlilies.

Elevation Range

Known examples of this community have been found at elevations between 4 feet and 75 feet.

Best Time to See

Visiting the ponds in mid to late summer would be best. Flowering plants such as bladderworts will be in full flower and water levels will be the lowest for the year exposing the maximum amount of shoreline.

Coastal Plain Pond Images


International Vegetation Classification Associations

This New York natural community encompasses all or part of the concept of the following International Vegetation Classification (IVC) natural community associations. These are often described at finer resolution than New York's natural communities. The IVC is developed and maintained by NatureServe.

  • American White Water-lily - Robbins' Spikerush Aquatic Vegetation (CEGL006086)

NatureServe Ecological Systems

This New York natural community falls into the following ecological system(s). Ecological systems are often described at a coarser resolution than New York's natural communities and tend to represent clusters of associations found in similar environments. The ecological systems project is developed and maintained by NatureServe.

  • Northern Atlantic Coastal Plain Pond (CES203.518)

Characteristic Species

  • Herbs

    • Brasenia schreberi (water-shield)
    • Eleocharis robbinsii (Robbins's spike-rush)
    • Eriocaulon aquaticum (northern pipewort, northern hat-pins)
    • Gratiola aurea (golden hedge-hyssop)
    • Juncus militaris (bayonet rush)
    • Juncus pelocarpus (brown-fruited rush)
    • Myriophyllum humile (low water milfoil)
    • Najas flexilis (common water-nymph, common naiad)
    • Nymphaea odorata ssp. odorata (fragrant white water-lily)
    • Nymphoides cordata (little floating-heart)
    • Potamogeton oakesianus (Oakes's pondweed)
    • Utricularia purpurea (purple bladderwort)
    • Utricularia striata (striped bladderwort)
  • Nonvascular plants

    • Sphagnum cuspidatum
    • Sphagnum lescurii
    • Sphagnum macrophyllum
    • Sphagnum torreyanum

Similar Ecological Communities

  • Bog lake/pond (guide)
    Bog lakes occur in small kettleholes, have darkly stained water, and are nutrient poor. Unlike coastal plain ponds,however, they are surrounded or fringed by a floating mat of vegetation. Their water levels also usually do not fluctuate. These ponds do not occur on the coastal plain.
  • Coastal salt pond (guide)
    Coastal salt ponds are formed when sandspits close off a bay or lagoon. The water is usually brackish. Occassionally the sandspit is broken by a hurricane and the pond becomes saline again. Coastal plain ponds are always fresh water and occur further from the ocean.
  • Eutrophic pond (guide)
    Eutrophic ponds are nutrient rich and typically contain algae. They are very murky with low transparency. Coastal plain ponds have darkly stained water but lack the algae seen in eutrophic ponds.
  • Oligotrophic pond (guide)
    Coastal plain ponds are oligotrophic but their water is typically darkly stained. Water levels in coastal plain ponds also vary much more widely than oligotrophic ponds.
  • Pine barrens vernal pond (guide)
    A seasonally fluctuating, groundwater-fed pond and associated wetland that typically occur in pine barrens. Examples are primarily known from inland pine barrens settings, such as the Albany Pine Bush, but may also occur on the coastal plain. This community forms in low kettlehole depressions or in swales between forested dunes.
  • Vernal pool (guide)
    This is an aquatic community of one or more associated intermittently to ephemerally ponded, small, shallow depressions typically within an upland forest.


Nonvascular plants

Percent cover

This figure helps visualize the structure and "look" or "feel" of a typical Coastal Plain Pond. Each bar represents the amount of "coverage" for all the species growing at that height. Because layers overlap (shrubs may grow under trees, for example), the shaded regions can add up to more than 100%.

Additional Resources


Boone, D.D. (undated). Rare vascular plants that may be found in coastal plain ponds. Maryland Natural Heritage Program, Annapolis, MD.

Briggs, N. 1993. Habitat use by the lateral bluet damselfly, Enallagma laterale, and the barrens bluet damselfly, Enallagma recurvatum, on seven coastal plain ponds in southern Rhode Island: implications for monitoring and preserve design. Unpublished report to the Nature Conservancy, March 19, 1993. 14 pp.

Edinger, G. J., D. J. Evans, S. Gebauer, T. G. Howard, D. M. Hunt, and A. M. Olivero (editors). 2014. Ecological Communities of New York State. Second Edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke’s Ecological Communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Albany, NY.

Edinger, Gregory J., D.J. Evans, Shane Gebauer, Timothy G. Howard, David M. Hunt, and Adele M. Olivero (editors). 2002. Ecological Communities of New York State. Second Edition. A revised and expanded edition of Carol Reschke's Ecological Communities of New York State. (Draft for review). New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY. 136 pp.

Enser, R.W. Observations concerning two types of coastal plain ponds in Rhode Island. unpublished report for Rhode Island Natural Heritage Program, Providence.

Kartesz, J.T. 1999. A synonymized checklist and atlas with biological attributes for the vascular flora of the United States, Canada, and Greenland. First edition. In: Kartesz, J.T., and C.A. Meacham. Synthesis of the North American Flora, Version 1.0. North Carolina Botanical Garden, Chapel Hill, N.C.

Klockner, Wayne. 1986. More on coastal plain Ponds. Eastern Region Science and Stewardship Newsletter 2:1-3.

Lloyd, F.E. 1942. The Carnivorous Plants Series: New series of plant science books. Volume 9. Chronica Botanica Company. Waltham, MA. 352 pp.

Lundgren, J. A. 1987. The distribution and occurrence of the vegetation of a coastal plain pond shore in Plymouth, MA from 1986 to 1987. Unpubl. report submitted to Massachusetts Natural Heritage Program. Boston, MA 11 pp. Draft.

Lundgren, J.A. 1989. Distribution and phenology of pondshore vegetation at a coastal plain pond in Plymouth, Massachusetts. M.S. thesis. University of Massachusetts, Amherst. 80 pp.

McAvoy, W., and K. Clancy. 1994. Community classification and mapping criteria for Category I interdunal swales and coastal plain pond wetlands in Delaware. Final Report submitted to the Division of Water Resources in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. 47 pp.

McHorney, Richard and Christopher Neill. 2007. Alterations of water levels in a Massachusetts coastal plain pond subject to municipal ground-water withdrawals. Wetlands 27(2) 366-380.

Muenscher, W.C. 1939. Aquatic vegetation of Long Island waters. In: A biological survey of the fresh waters of Long Island. Suppl. to the 28th Ann. Rep., 1938. New York State Conservation Department, Albany, NY. pp 88-101.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

Nichols, W. F. 2015. Natural Freshwater Lakes and Ponds in New Hampshire: Draft Classification. NH Natural Heritage Bureau, Concord, NH.

Olivero-Sheldon, A. and M.G. Anderson. 2016. Northeast Lake and Pond Classification. The Nature Conservancy, Eastern Conservation Science, Eastern Regional Office. Boston, MA.

Primack, Mark and Henry Woolsey. 1998. Treasures of our natural heritage: Coastal plain ponds of southeastern Massachusetts. The Wildlands Trust of Southeastern Massachusetts. Plymouth, MA.

Reschke, Carol. 1990. Ecological communities of New York State. New York Natural Heritage Program, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Latham, NY. 96 pp. plus xi.

Schneider, R. 1992. Examination of the role of hydrology and geochemistry in maintaining rare plant communites of coastal plain ponds. report to the Nature Conservancy. DC.

Sneddon, L. A. 1994. Descriptions of coastal plain pondshore proposed community elements. Unpublished. The Nature Conservancy, Boston, MA.

Sneddon, L. A., M. Anderson, and J. Lundgren. 1999. Classification of coastal plain pondshore communities of the Cape Cod National Seashore using the U.S. National Vegetation Classification. Unpublished report to the Cape Cod National Seashore. The Nature Conservancy, Boston, MA.

Sneddon, L. A., and M. G. Anderson. 1994. A classification scheme for Coastal Plain pondshore and related vegetation from Maine to Virginia. Supplement to Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 77 (Abstract).

Sorrie, Bruce. 1986. Comments on New England coastal plain ponds. Eastern Region Science and Stewardship Newsletter 2:3-5.

South Fork Natural History Society. 1993. South Fork natural history newsletter: Special issue - The Long Pond Greenbelt. South Fork Natural History Newsletter 5 (1). Amagansett, NY 11930.

Theall, O. 1983. An investigation into the hydrology of massachusetts' coastal plain ponds. unpublished report for Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Theall, Otto. 1983. An investigation into the hydrology of Massachusetts' coastal plain pond. Unpublished study by Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Program, Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Zaremba, R. E., and E. E. Lamont. 1993. The status of the Coastal Plain pondshore community in New York. Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 120:180-187.

Zaremba, Robert E. 1991. Notes on EO rank changes or ID changes for 17 coastal plain pond shore sites, faxed February 25, 1991.


About This Guide

This guide was authored by: Gregory J. Edinger

Information for this guide was last updated on: December 12, 2023

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Coastal plain pond. Available from: Accessed July 19, 2024.