Meeting the Needs of a Dynamic Urban Forest
The New York City Urban Field Station's mission is to improve quality of life in urban areas by conducting and supporting research about social-ecological systems and natural resource management. It began as a partnership between the USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station and the NYC Department of Parks & Recreation. The Urban Field Station does the following:
- Promotes environmental stewardship and ecological literacy (people’s understanding of ecology) to improve human well-being in New York City, the country’s largest and most diverse metropolitan area.
- Works with land managers to create innovative “research in action” programs that support urban ecosystems.
- Conducts comparative research and shares findings with decision makers and researchers in other metropolitan regions in the United States and around the world.
- Links to a growing network of U.S. Forest Service scientists and university partners who focus on urban research.
Presentation by Erika Svendsen and Bram Gunther to the United Nations on International Day of Forests / World Water Day - March 22, 2016 (Courtesy United Nations Audio Visual Library)
The Stewardship Mapping and Assessment Project (STEW-MAP) is helping us understand how individual citizens, non-profit organizations, businesses, and governments work together to care for specific places and the environment in general . STEW-MAP uses a broad definition of ‘environmental stewardship’ that includes conserving, managing, monitoring, advocating for, and educating the public about local environments (including water, land, air, waste, toxics, and energy issues).
UFS staff are conducting cross-disciplinary research, funded by the TKF Foundation’s program “Open Spaces Sacred Places: The Healing Power of Nature”, that explores how urban green spaces promote individual and community resilience in Joplin, MO and New York City. The two cities face distinct stressors and are in different stages in their recovery timeline (an EF5 tornado in May 2011 vs. Superstorm Sandy in October 2012). Collaborating with Cornell University and local partners in each city (Drury University, City of Joplin, Forest ReLeaf of Missouri, TILL Design), the research team seeks to understand how the processes of collaborative planning and stewardship of natural resources can support recovery from a wide range of disasters and disturbances.
Reading the Landscape
This citywide social assessment seeks to inform the adaptive management of New York City parkland. Working in partnership with the Natural Areas Conservancy, Forest Service researchers developed a rapid methodology for understanding the socio-cultural values and services of parkland. Over the course of 2013-2014, the research team assessed over 9,000 acres of City and Federal land and interviewed over 1,000 parks users. Data will be shared via a geodatabase, white papers, and journal articles. These social data can be integrated with ecological assessment data collected by the NAC.
Urban Tree Health
NYC Urban Field Station researchers are developing a methodology designed to quantify urban tree health at a relatively fine scale, and throughout all phases of tree decline. We have been collecting these tree health metrics for both street trees and park trees within NYC. Starting in 2014, a collaboration with The Nature Conservancy’s Healthy Trees, Healthy Cities program has involved TNC LEAF interns in collecting tree health metrics.
Forest Service researchers serve as science advisors to MillionTreesNYC, a project that aims to plant and care for one million new trees in New York City. MillionTreesNYC is a joint project of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation and the New York Restoration Project that builds on the sustainability goals of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC 2030. Scientists from across the Northern Research Station have provided research, monitoring, and evaluation to support the MillionTreesNYC project.
Urban Field Station researchers are collaborating with faculty at NYU and SUNY-Buffalo in an interdisciplinary effort to explore critical connections between green infrastructure (e.g., parks, open spaces), grey infrastructure (e.g., streets and buildings), and human health and well-being. This research is funded in part by a contract from the USDA Forest Service to the NYU College of Dentistry, and a consultancy from the NYU College of Dentistry to Dr. Sara Metcalf. It investigates both the underlying structures of the city as well as the human innovations (e.g., individual actions, organizational networks, new forms of governance) that arise in response to competition over scarce urban space, reflect diverse cultural values, and shape the course of natural resource management in cities.
The NYC Research Focus Areas fall within the NRS Theme Urban Natural Resources Stewardship.
Each year, we provide a progress report on all the research at the New York City Urban Field Station. Read our current NYC Urban Field Station Progress Report (pdf)
Other NRS Urban Field Stations
In addition to New York City, there are three other urban field stations within the 20 northeastern and north central states served by the Northern Research Station. They include: