Tomorrow evening, Dr. Judith S. Weis, Professor of Biological Sciences at Rutgers University will be talking about and signing copies of her book Salt Marshes: A Natural and Unnatural History at the Greenbelt Nature Center on Staten Island. The book is first a history of American salt marshes, their ecological functions, gradual destruction and several profiles of contemporary restoration projects. Should be a rich and interesting talk.
Special attention is given in the book to the New Jersey Meadowlands and the “250 years of development, drainage, diking, filling, garbage dumping, and sewage pumping” that happened there; the Freshkills Park site met a similar fate. Once primarily salt marsh, hundreds of acres have been filled and denied their ecological function. But considerable marshland still remains onsite, and we are currently developing restoration plans for it.
Friday, May 7th, 2010 @ 7 pm
The Greenbelt Nature Center
700 Rockland Avenue
Staten Island, NY
Suggested donation: $5
Light refreshments served
The second annual New York City Wildflower Week actually runs for nine days, starting tomorrow, May 1st and running through the end of next weekend. The various cultural partners involved in organizing Wildflower Week are offering a host of (mostly) free programs all over the City to encourage New Yorkers to learn about, experience and reflect on the sustainability of native plants, particularly. Offerings include lectures, workshops, tours of gardens and green roofs, cooking classes and children’s events.
The New York Times features a long-term partnership between the National Park Service and the US Army Corps of Engineers to restore the rapidly disappearing salt marsh islands in Jamaica Bay, the 26-square-mile lagoon bordered by Brooklyn and Queens. Now comprising 800 acres altogether, the series of islands in the Bay spanned more than 16,000 acres a century ago. As part of a larger project to restore parts of the Hudson-Raritan Estuary, and especially Upper and Lower New York Bay, the Army Corps is importing rock, clay, sand, and silt dredged from the widening of the Panama Canal to shore up Jamaica Bay’s islands and help re-establish plant and animal habitat.
The article also offers a good, brief environmental history of Jamaica Bay, including early 20th century plans to make it into a major seaport and mid-20th century top-down conservation efforts that led to the creation of Gateway National Recreation Area, along the bay’s coast, in 1972. Still, over half of the bay’s salt marsh has been lost since the 1950s, and many migratory birds and fish species have disappeared. Contributors to environmental degradation have been contamination from waste treatment plants, historic landfill waste seepage, highway runoff and airplane fuel from jets at JFK Airport.
Current restoration work has started on one island, Elders Point, where the Army Corps estimates that 42 acres of wetlands have been restored, with another 34 acres expected by the end of the year. Another restoration effort on the island called Yellow Bar Hassock is being prepared.
If you’re not a biologist or a wildlife hobbyist, it can be hard to understand what the big deal is about birds, bats and other creatures at the Freshkills Park site—why are our birding tours always booked months in advance? Why so much concern—huge sections of environmental review documents, regulatory review on issues of habitat fragmentation—for the welfare of populations of small animals, when the site is so big?
A new Smithsonian study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences helps to address these questions by offering a role played by animals in the middle of the food pyramid—insect-eating birds, bats and lizards, specifically: protecting and encouraging the growth of grasslands and forests. The study, drawing from more than 100 studies of insect predation by birds, bats or lizards from four continents, found that by eating herbivores and their insect predators, birds, bats and lizards reduced damage to plants by 40 percent, which resulted in a 14 percent increase in plant biomass.
Grassland habitat, which is abundant at the Freshkills Park site, is in rare supply in the New York City area. These middle-pyramid animal species will play an important role in encouraging park development through the establishment of new woodland and the restoration of native grassland.
Scientists at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden (BBG) recently completed a 20-year comprehensive study of plant biodiversity in metropolitan New York. The impressive New York Metropolitan Flora project has cataloged plant populations in every county within a 50-mile radius of New York City. The study has helped in noting changes in biodiversity and identifying native species being crowded out by invasives or wiped out by human development; the BBG has nursed some of these threatened species in its native plant garden in an effort to preserve, harvest seed from and restart propogation of those plants, in support of the plants’ own continued existence as well as that of insect, bird and other animal species dependent on them.
(via The New York Times)
As part of its waterfront redevelopment plan, multi-governmental agency Waterfront Toronto is currently in construction of Sherbourne Park, a $28 million storm water treatment facility and public park, near the Lake Ontario shore. Much of the water treatment infrastructure will be visible to park visitors, making more transparent the purification process through features like an ultraviolet treatment pavilion, dramatic channelizing sculptures and biofiltration beds.
The facility’s design has been led by planning, urban design and landscape architecture firm Phillips Farevaag Smallenberg and illustrates, like Freshkills Park, the increased level of collaboration that is becoming more common around large infrastructure projects between engineers, landscape architects and planners.
There are two park sites in New York City that are also sited atop water filtration plants, though neither showcase water filtration quite as prominently: Riverbank State Park sits atop a wastewater treatment facility, and the in-construction Croton Water Filtration Plant in the Bronx’s Van Cordlant Park sites a golf course and green roof atop a drinking water filtration facility.
(via The Dirt)
Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront opens today at the MoMA. The exhibit features architectural proposals transforming New York City’s harbor and coastline in response to sea level rise. Last fall’s architects-in-residence program at P.S.1 brought together five interdisciplinary teams to produce plans, models, drawings and analytical models that now make up the show.
Urban Omnibus offers an in-depth preview and primer on project focal points: industrial development that creates new marine habitat on the Kill Van Kull; oyster reef restoration on the Gowanus Bay and Buttermilk Channel; a partially submerged residential development in the Narrows; park expansion onto piers at Liberty State Park; carefully stratefied tower construction at the southern tip of Manhattan.
The show runs through October 11th.
Urban Biofilter, a project of environmental advocacy non-profit Earth Island Institute, aims to plant bamboo forests on brownfield sites along industrial and transportation routes. The planted zones are intended to remediate the wastewater they are fed, reduce stormwater runoff and filter gases, contaminants and metal pollutants out of the local airshed. The project also aims to create local jobs and industry through the sustainable harvest of bamboo, which is a quickly regenerating species, for timber production.
The group has implemented two pilot projects so far. Last summer, it held a workshop in Tijuana in which participants lined a wastewater channel with gravel to reduce human exposure to the water and planted willow and bamboo buffer around the channel to filter contaminants from the air and water. The group also organized the volunteer planting of a preliminary patch of bamboo in the Port of Oakland, where residents are five times more susceptible to cancer from diesel particulate matter. Urban Biofilter has plans for a larger scale intervention in the port extending from this first plot.
Information and reflection on plastic marine pollution continues to increase: as if the Great Pacific Garbage Patch weren’t cause for enough distress,the Sea Education Association (SEA) recently completed a two-decade study on the Atlantic Ocean and reports that a large volume of discarded plastic also floats in the North Atlantic Gyre, trapped together by ocean currents and causing harm to fish and bird species inhabiting the area.
If you’re interested in learning more, Dr. Marcus Eriksen, director of research and education at California’s Algalita Marine Research Foundation, will be speaking at the American Museum of Natural History this Sunday, March 14th, about his research and about the impact of plastic marine pollution in the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.
Sunday, March 14, 12pm
Milstein Hall of Ocean Life, first floor
The American Museum of Natural History
Admission is free with museum admission
And for a more fable-like, existential take on the journey of plastic to this watery grave, filmmaker Ramin Bahrani’s short film Plastic Bag is now viewable online. The film follows the lifetime of one plastic bag, from initial use to disposal and, eventually, out to sea. At 18 minutes long, it’s not just a public service announcement but also an art film. Fittingly, then, it features music by Sigur Ros‘s Kjartan Sveinsson and narration by German filmmaker Werner Herzog.
Artist Luke Jerram is preparing an outdoor ‘acoustic pavilion’ called Aeolus, which will be built of hundreds of metal tubes acting as Aeolian harps. Each tube will contain strings which will strike chords inside the structure as the wind passes over them, making the whole structure sing. Visitors to the piece will be able to sit in the center of the structure, and the tubes will act as lighting filters, speckling the interior with shifting light. Jerrem’s work includes a number of environmentally focused projects, including one that amplifies and orchestrates sounds made by plants.
Aeolus is being funded by the United Kingdom’s Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and hosted by the acoustic engineering departments at the University of Southampton (ISVR) and University of Salford. The installation, which is currently in development, will be hosted by various temporary sites in the UK before being installed in a permanent location.
(via Green Diary)