NOTICE: The trail heaad is located at the SCWA (Suffolk County Water Authority)
A recently opened trail allows the visitor to experience this unique ecosystem. The trail is 6/10 of a mile long and takes about 20 minutes to walk.
Dwarf Pine Plain communities are rare ecosystems that exist in only a few locations in the entire world. The New Jersey Dwarf Pine Plains, the Shawangunk Mountains Dwarf Pine Plains, and the Long Island Dwarf Pine Plains are the three existing communities. The Shawangunk Pine Plain is located in New York closer to the Catskill Region.
The Dwarf Pine Plains earned its name from the height of the vegetation that exists in the community. Dominated by pitch pines and scrub oak, these trees will rarely exceed 3 to 6 feet in height. The suggested reason behind this stunted growth is most likely poor soil conditions. It is known as a podzolic soil, characterized by extreme acidity. Sandy soils allow the little available nutrients and water to leach out very quickly. Since the water table is located out of reach of the plant roots it is even more difficult for the vegetation to obtain nutrients. The porous, sandy soil evaporates moisture very quickly causing a dry soil condition. The dwarf trees in this community offer little protection from surrounding elements resulting in extreme heat in the summer, and harsh, cold winters.
Since the Long Island Dwarf Pine Plain is a rare ecosystem, it supports some uncommon wildlife species. There is a wide array of bird species that use this habitat. The black-throated green warbler breeds commonly in this area. American kestrels and marsh hawks can be seen hunting for vole and mouse species. Nocturnal birds also inhabit this area. Some owls you may encounter are screech, northern saw-whet, and long-eared owls. Nighthawks and whippoorwills can also be heard in the Dwarf Pine Plains.
Of the three mentioned Dwarf Pine Plain communities, the Long Island Dwarf Pine Plain is most vulnerable to damage by human influence. Its location is not as remote as the New Jersey and Shawangunk dwarf communities. It is important to respect and preserve this globally rare ecological community.