Fortifying the Resiliency of NYC’s Urban Forests

When you think of forests, the largest city in the US probably doesn’t come right to mind. However, New York City is home to over 7000 acres of urban forest land — mostly found throughout its extensive parks.

The addition of trees and shrubbery to an urban setting makes the air fresher in an otherwise stagnant city setting and provides a habitat for wildlife in the middle of the urban sprawl. The Forest Management Framework for New York City has outlined several threats to these natural oases, and also examines a plan for mitigating them.

Threats to the Trees

Global warming and the intrusion of several destructive foreign species are two of the most significant concerns for the long-term wellbeing of the urban forests. With warmer, drier climates likely around the NYC area in the coming decades, some of the species that inhabit urban green spaces may have trouble surviving. Furthermore, warmer temperatures mean that new varieties of insects, fungus and other tree-munching species will likely migrate north, which presents a compound threat to the health of the trees.

Likewise, the introduction of foreign species into an isolated area can be disastrous. An insect that targets a specific type of tree, like the Hemlock Wooly Adelgid, might lack natural predators or other population checks that would usually exist in nature. Further, the annihilation of one species is more impactful to a smaller, less diverse ecosystem of an urban forest.

The Plan

The Forest Management Framework project is emphasizing data-supported research and findings and will be advising other branches of the city’s extensive network of park conservancies, such as the Forest Park Trust and the Prospect Park Alliance. The ultimate goal of this 25-year plan is laid out in a one-page summary of the project and includes reducing the number of invasive species to 10 percent of their current level and boosting climate-related resiliency.

The other goals of the plan include fostering comprehensive and informed stewardship of the forest within the greater NYC community. Though not explicitly stated in the documentation, pollution is another concern facing the urban forests. These areas tend to have a disproportionate amount of traffic in comparison to natural woodlands. More people usually means more pollution and litter.

Pollution is estimated to cause up to 20,000 deaths per year. The addition of air-filtering plant life helps mitigate this. By instilling in communities a sense of the worth of forest land, this project hopes to maintain its quality.

Urban Forests

For those of us who live in cities, contributing to your local urban forest initiatives and park programs can be a fun and helpful activity. After all, all of us have to breathe the air, and adding a few trees to the urban landscape is an easy way to make that air cleaner and healthier.

Kate Harveston
Political Journalist & Blogger

by Editor

Monday, May 14th, 2018 at 09:08
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