The Laboratory is located in a section of the Oak/Chestnut forest region of the coastal Plain of Long Island, New York. Forest types are typically oak-pine or pine-oak. BNL property constitutes roughly five percent of the 404.7 sq-km (100,000 acre) Pine Barrens on Long Island. Because of the general topography and porous soil, there is little surface runoff or open water. Upland soils tend to be very well drained, while depressions form ephemeral coastal plain ponds. Hence, a mosaic of wet and dry areas on site are correlated with variations in topography and depth to the water table. Without fires or other disturbances, vegetation would follow the normal moisture gradient closely. In actuality, vegetation onsite is in various stages of succession, reflecting the history of disturbances to the area, the most important of which are land clearing, fire, local flooding, and draining.
Over 230 plant species have been identified onsite. Fifteen mammal species endemic to the site include those species common to mixed hardwood forest and open grassland habitats. The white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) density is approximately 55 per square mile according to a BNL deer population surveys. 85 species of birds have been observed nesting at BNL. Over 200 transitory species have been documented at BNL, a result of its location within the Atlantic Flyway, and the scrub/shrub habitats that offer food and rest to migratory songbirds. Thirteen amphibian and twelve reptile species have been identified. Permanently flooded retention basins and others watercourses support amphibians and aquatic reptiles. Recent ecological studies at the BNL site have confirmed seventeen breeding sites for the NYS-endangered eastern tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) in BNL’s ponds and recharge basins. Ten species of fish have also been identified as endemic to the site. For example the banded sunfish (Eanneacanthus obesus), a NYS threatened species, has been confirmed as inhabiting the Peconic River onsite (Scheibel, 1990; Corin, 1990) and the swamp darter (Etheostoma fusiforme) has been confirmed in a large wetland within the Peconic River drainage.