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How healthy are NYC forests and wetlands? Decade-old data is about to get a refresh!

By on July 09, 2024

Three people stand in forest with clipboard

Much can transpire in a decade, especially in a place like New York City. Your favorite bodega is now a boutique candle store. The café on the corner where you used to get your morning coffee has transformed into a 10-story apartment complex. But what about the city’s natural areas? Changes to these areas may be less obvious, but over time our natural area ecosystems change too. But, by how much exactly? That’s where an Ecological Assessment (EA) comes in. 

Back in 2013, the Natural Areas Conservancy and NYC Parks began the first ever EA to assess the ecological conditions of 10,000 acres of forest, saltmarsh, and freshwater wetlands in NYC. 

The data collected was specific for each of these ecosystem types and included information on plant and/or fauna species and abundance in all ecosystem types; elevation, erosion, and shear strength in salt marshes; downed woody material in forests and freshwater wetlands, among many other attributes. 

What impact did this data have?

  1. It provided a foundation for our management frameworks. Analysis of the data from the first assessment helped to inform our Forest Management Framework and Wetlands Management Framework. Both of these comprehensive reports provided a vision for the long-term care and restoration of natural areas in NYC.
  2. It contributed to our advocacy efforts. We were able to analyze our data and use it to highlight the importance of natural areas and their impact and value to the city. This resulted in more than $12 million dollars of funding for forest management!
  3. It guided natural areas forest management and restoration efforts. Because of the first EA, we were able to identify the unique needs of our city’s urban forests and develop best practices for their care. This includes efforts such as reducing ecological threats, promoting healthy regeneration and biodiversity, and implementing diverse protective management strategies.

Now, in 2024, we are commencing a second data collection and analysis effort with the goal of refreshing our forest, saltmarsh, and freshwater wetland datasets so we can determine if changes have occurred over the last decade, and the magnitude of these changes.

Stay tuned for more information this summer on the Ecological Assessment 2.0!

Curious to learn more about the NAC’s work? Check out our latest research.

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