A recent analysis of wetland restoration efforts sheds new light on the success of a 100-year history of such work to reclaim these highly important ecosystems. Restoration has been a major undertaking in recent decades as development has damaged and otherwise claimed over half of the wetlands in areas like North America, Europe, Australia, and China.
The study looked at monitoring done at 621 restored or created wetlands around the world, comparing them with nearly the same amount of undisturbed natural wetlands. It revealed that the recovery of physical and biotic properties–the parts of a wetland that we can usually see and orient restoration toward–happened at a different timescale than the overall functioning of the ecosystem, which more closely followed the process of secondary succession after natural disturbances.
Promisingly, the study demonstrated that full recovery of human-damaged ecosystems is possible in most cases within one to two human generations, given time, a focus on recovering processes rather than single elements, and solid ecological understanding.
(via NYTimes Green Blog)
Progress continues at Staten Island’s Brookfield Avenue Landfill, a 132-acre site in the Great Kills neighborhood, just east of the Freshkills Park site. The second phase of construction is under way and should be complete by 2013. As with other landfill remediation projects in New York City, the city Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) will oversee completion of the cap, barrier walls and leachate collection system. Once that infrastructure is in place, DEP’s John McLaughlin will manage the ecological restoration of the site, which includes the planting of 25,000 native trees and shrubs. The site will eventually be turned into public parkland.
A few years back McLaughlin discussed a similar project at Brooklyn’s Penn and Fountain Landfills as part of our Freshkills Park Talk lecture series. It’s worth noting that the Fresh Kills Landfill differs from the Brookfield Avenue and Penn and Fountain Landfills in that it does not require remediation, since most of the waste received at the Fresh Kills was municipal solid waste.
Brooklyn’s Floyd Bennett Field, a former civilian and military airport on the Jamaica Bay coast, is now poised to become New York City’s largest campground. The site was taken over by the National Park Service (NPS) in 1971 after being decommissioned for aircraft, and as part of the Gateway National Recreation Area has since played host to a variety of activities: organized sports, model and full-scale airplane hobbyism, motorcycle practice and Brooklyn’s largest community garden. NPS has recently announced a plan to focus on camping at Floyd Bennett, expanding its five campsites by 600 more and making it the largest urban campground in the US. No word yet on the timetable for expansion.
The Freshkills Park Talks lecture series continues next Tuesday with a presentation by elementary school science teacher Howard Warren. Out of sheer interest and commitment, Howard has become one of the City’s leading experts on the history and present condition of Barren Island and Dead Horse Bay, at the southeastern corner of Brooklyn. The area is well known by urban explorers for its ‘Bottle Beach’, where a 1950s landfill continues to spill its contents onto the shore to be combed over by amateur archeologists. But the island and the bay’s storis stretch much farther into the past of industrial Brooklyn than just the 1950s, and its current state is the object of ongoing discussions on ecological health and restoration. Howard has been bringing his students to study beach and the bay for over 20 years and has integrated its study in a variety of engaging environmental curricula, bringing students and their parents to the site to clean up the shore, collect fish for study, test the water chemistry and study artifacts. He’ll discuss the site’s history and politics and share lessons learned through long-term, collaborative investigation of the site and its secrets.
Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 | 6:30-8pm
@ the Metropolitan Exchange
33 Flatbush Avenue, Brooklyn | 6th floor
FREE | No RSVP necessary
32.5 acres of Jersey City’s 87-acre PJP Landfill, situated on the Hackensack River, is slated to be transformed into Marion Greenway Park, a passive recreational space, over the next two years. The former Superfund site received chemical and industrial waste as early as 1968, and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection assumed stewardship of the site in 1985, extinguishing landfill fires, installing a landfill cap and a landfill gas venting system. Site remediation began in 2007 through the work of Waste Management, Inc. Jersey City purchased the land last year for $12.4 million, and the transition into parkland is being designed by environmental consultants Malcolm Pirnie. Park features will include soccer fields, walking and jogging trails and passive lawn areas.
The Dirt recently provided a thorough review of presentations made at this year’s Society for Ecological Restoration (SER) conference. The conference focused on “novel ecosystems”—new combinations of species that result from the influence of people—and the issues restoration ecologists must consider in the face of unrelenting urbanization. Recaps include:
- Marilyn Jordan, Senior Conservation Scientist from The Nature Conservancy, on how modification by humans tends to result in the replacement of native biodiversity with non-native generalists, threatening genetic richness developed over thousands or millions of years of evolution. Jordan argues for steps to isolate or contain the phenomenon.
- Margaret Palmer, Director of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, on the ecological performance of degraded sites and the politics of “restoration”: how can restoring a site to an arbitrary point in it’s history address what’s occurring there now? Would it be better to leave certain places as is? “How do we restore nature if the world is changing and we can’t go back in time?”
- Michael Erwin, Research Professor and Wildlife Biologist at the University of Virginia, on the ongoing Poplar Island restoration project, creating restored and man-made islands in the Chesapeake Bay in an effort to expand the area’s network of waterbird nesting grounds in response to critical habitat degradation from pollution, erosion and rising water levels.
- John Dixon Hunt, landscape historian at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design, on the capacity and attendant responsibilities of landscape architecture to interpret and represent the history of sites. Examples included Gas Works Park in Seattle, Parc De Bercy in Paris and Manchester Exchange Square in the UK.
Vulgare recently highlighted artist Mel Chin’s Revival Field: Projection & Procedure (1990-1993), a 60 square foot phytoremedation test plot at the Pig’s Eye Landfill in St. Paul, Minnesota. While in residence at the Walker Art Center, Chin worked with scientists at the USDA to design gardens of hyperaccumulators—plants that can uptake heavy metals from contaminated soil (at Pig’s Eye, the soil was contaminated with cadmium, zinc and lead).
Chin designed a circular field with replicated plantings to analyze the use of six hyperaccumulator and metal-tolerant plants and a variety of soil treatments. Two main walkways divided the field like the crosshair of a rifle scope, symbolizing a targeting of the earth for cleanup. The Minnesota field trial was active from 1990 to 1993. It showed that Alpine pennycress was best at taking in heavy metals, although neither it nor any of the other plants took in metals fast enough to achieve significant cleansing in 3 years.
At present, artists working together with scientists, even on phytoremediation-based projects, is not uncommon. But in the early 1990s, it was relatively new art practice and grew not just out of scientific interest, but conceptual fascination. The project, said Chin, “relates to my interest in alchemy and my understanding of transformative processes and the mutable nature of materials. The contaminated soil is transformed back into rich earth, capable of sustaining a diverse ecosystem.” More media and interviews about the project are available through Art21.
A problem faced by many industrial ports is what to do with contaminated marine sediment that is regularly dredged from the sea floor—sediment that often contains high levels of carcinogenic PCBs, cadmium, lead and mercury. In the past, these polluted soils were dumped further out to sea or transported to inland landfills, both fiscally and environmentally costly options.
A Swedish-Norwegian team of researchers has found a way to transform marine sediment into building material through a process that makes its pollutants inert. The soft sediments are mixed with binders, cement, and steel slag, which stabilizes the mixture and prevents pollutants from leaching out of the matrix. Since mixing is performed on-site, transportation costs are reduced or eliminated, and the cement-like construction material can be used immediately in the harbor, to build structures like buildings and loading zones.
Another animated video in the American Society for Landscape Architects (ASLA)’s sustainable design series demonstrates how to sustainably reclaim building materials for use in new park construction. The clip highlights ways to convert a former building site into a new open space while minimizing waste and maximizing use of recycled materials.
(via The Dirt)
Waste Management, Inc. (WM) recently reached a company goal of supporting at least 25,000 acres of wildlife habitat across 100 of its properties, most of which are landfill sites. Environmental projects on WM land vary from pollinator gardens and birdhouses to wetland creation and native habitat enhancement, with many projects involving community involvement and environmental education components. Projects are certified by the Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), a non-profit group that brings together corporations and conservation organizations. CEO David Steiner says that WM plans to continue growing the initiative: “We’re planning to continue growing our number of certifications and expanding the acreage we manage for wildlife protection.”
(via Waste & Recycling News)