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New York City Natural Area Types, an Animated Film

New York is the most populous city in the United States. Known as the “concrete jungle,” it is often more valued for its densely built skyline than its natural landscape. However, over 40% of New York City’s land cover is green. Using fieldwork and remote sensing data, the Natural Areas Conservancy assessed the condition of 10,000 acres of natural areas in New York City parks, including freshwater wetlands, salt marshes, and forests. They found that 85% of the forest canopy in New York is primarily native and grew naturally. However, native tree species are less prevalent in the midstory and understory, where invasive species are taking hold. The healthiest forests in New York City store and sequester significantly more carbon than degraded forests, making work to conserve and expand them all the more important in mitigating climate change. Due to the heat island effect, urban forests are exposed to warmer temperatures-this trend may make New York less suitable to its native tree species in the future. NAC and New York City Parks created climate-adapted planting palettes to accommodate these shifts by predicting the resilience of individual tree species and planting more genetically diverse populations to promote adaptation. Some believe that cities may become the ideal nurseries for conservation efforts as urban forests encounter climactic shifts before their rural counterparts. They can test methods for building resilient ecosystems. This video animates Packard Jennings illustration of New York City’s natural area types in Alison Sant’s book, From the Ground Up: Local Efforts to Create Resilient Cities (Island Press, 2022). Music: “Reality State” by Patio on Fire Talk Records.

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