Natural Areas Conservancy and New York City Department of Parks and Recreation: Encouraging Robust Urban Forests Through Restoration with Climate Change-Adapted Species Palettes

Yes
Action

During this two year project current native species planting lists will be evaluated to promote species that will be successful in future climate change scenarios. This new climate adapted species palette will be used in forest restoration projects across NYC.

Using climate science models and species composition data from New York City, the Natural Areas Conservancy and New York City Department of Parks and Recreation will develop a tool that matches species expected to thrive in future climate scenarios and apply the tool to upcoming restoration projects in NYC thus increasing forest resilience.

Project Area

With a population of more than 8.3 million people, New York City has more than 28,000 residents per square mile. The city sits at the confluence of three ecoregions, and as a result is home to an incredible diversity of flora and fauna. Within this densely populated area are also more than 30,000 acres of parkland and over 7,000 acres are managed as natural area forest. NYC’s forests provide valuable ecological and recreational opportunities to the city’s residents and visitors, and are a haven for permanent and migratory wildlife. NYC’s forests vary in size and composition, and exist in isolated pockets throughout the city with the most common forest communities dominated by oak/tulip and oak/hickory associations. Invasive species removal and forest restoration through native species planting and promotion occur to conserve these and healthy urban forests. Incorporating climate science into these efforts is a goal of the Natural Areas Conservancy and New York City Department of Parks and Recreation.

Management Goals

The overall goal of the project is to improve the adaptability of tree species planted in NYC’s forest for future climatic conditions.

Specific objectives include:

  • Support existing northern hardwood species and prepare for loss of some northern hardwood species
  • Support existing southern species and prepare for their increase
  • Support existing generalist species 
  • Decrease extent the extent of invasive species and minimize the impacts on natives

 

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
exacerbation of the urban heat island effect
decrease in the number of very cold days
increase in the number of very hot days
increase in storm frequency or intensity
increase in suitable habitat for invasive species or pests

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

selecting appropriate replacements and/or ratios of species
knowing whether to plant or allow for recruitment
maintaining biodiversity as some species decline or invasive species colonize

Opportunities

Can plant new species from southern hardiness zones
Can monitor and adjust management as changes are observed

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Area/TopicApproachTactics
northern hardwood refugia
8.1. Use seeds, germplasm, and other genetic material from across a greater geographic range.
Incorporate southern genetic variants of northern species
rare species
4.2. Prioritize and maintain sensitive or at-risk species or communities.
continue to manage and protect rare species
successional invasive stands
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
plant native climate-resistant species that can out-compete invasives
Northern hardwood shift
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Plant native species from southern genetic stock

Monitoring

In this two year project, project managers will track and monitor the implementation and shift of species list for restoration towards more species that are predicted to do well in future climates in New York City.

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

forested site with sugar maple saplings in the understory. One person is sitting down collecting data.
Open forest with one person in the background collecting data

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Leslie or learn more at: http://www.naturalareasnyc.org

Keywords

Invasive species, Upland hardwoods, Planting, Refugia, Restoration, Urban

Last Updated

Thursday, May 4, 2017