Concerned for the well-being of its cherished urban forest, and for urban forests everywhere, New York City’s Central Park is opening a climate laboratory.
The research facility that will draw on decades of data on the health of its wildlife, vegetation, and soil to study climate change-induced deterioration of parks and natural forested areas.
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The lab is the brainchild of Central Park Conservancy Board of Trustees member Norman Selby, who “knew that something had to be done to mitigate future damage caused by extreme weather events after Hurricane Ida dumped a record 3.15 inches of rain on the park over the course of an hour, flooding the famous Boathouse and damaging roughly 50 trees,” reports Bloomberg CityLab.
Now, the Central Park Conservancy is also working with the Yale School of the Environment and New York City’s Natural Areas Conservancy to help other urban parks implement mitigation and adaptation solutions. Its aim is “to create a platform where parks in cities around the world can share information that will help them manage and protect their green spaces in the face of climate change.”
Using remote sensing technology made available through NASA satellites, researchers will create maps to help them better understand the distribution of different types of parkland. Since natural and manicured parks have very different sets of needs, writes CityLab, this information is essential for prescribing effective management and sustainability approaches.
Using the Natural Areas Conservancy’s ground-breaking Forest Identification and Restoration Selection Tool (FIRST), the lab will also “suggest unique climate-adaptive planting solutions for land managers to implement at different urban forest restoration projects across the U.S.”
The selection tool can also “identify specific plant species that will thrive in different locations, thus helping cities maximize the carbon sequestration and heat-reducing abilities of their natural areas,” CityLab adds.
Unlike rural forests, the carbon sequestering powers of urban forests are not well understood. Central Park’s climate lab hopes to fill that knowledge gap.
With the seed money from Selby in hand, CityLab says the Conservancy is currently fundraising for another US$4 to $5 million, and will be providing space and support for onsite climate lab work in the park.
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