The greater Plymouth, Massachusetts area hosts some of the most significant natural ecosystems in the Northeastern United States. Outwash from the last of numerous glacial periods left thick glacial deposits of sand and gravel, providing the geologic foundation for globally rare pine barrens. This fire-adapted forest is home to a host of rare species found almost nowhere else in the world. Interspersed among the 20,000 acres (80 km²) of pine barrens are dozens of remarkable coastal plain ponds. In addition to supporting federally endangered Plymouth Redbelly Turtles and globally rare plant communities, these ponds are windows on the Plymouth/Carver Sole Source Aquifer - the largest drinking water aquifer in the state of Massachusetts.
The pace of development has increased tremendously in the Plymouth area. Large-scale development proposals and an increase in the number of new homes are altering the quality of life for residents. Southeastern Massachusetts' population is expected to grow by an additional 200,000 people in 20 years, leading to the fragmentation of Plymouth's forested areas.
These population increases have serious secondary impacts, including the depletion of the water table by water supply wells and the potential pollution of the aquifer. Development also leads to the suppression of natural wildfire, necessary to maintain the pinelands' rare habitats. Damaging recreation, such as off-road vehicle use on pond shores and in fragile pine barrens, is also on the rise.
Plymouth gentian, New England boneset, golden hedge hyssops, pitch pine-scrub oak barrens, coastal plain pondshore communities
The federally endangered Plymouth Red-bellied Turtle is a star attraction in the Plymouth pinelands. With less than 600 of these federally endangered turtles remaining, the Massachusetts Chapter joined the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program to assist in nest site creation and nest monitoring, and habitat protection.