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Sustaining The Nature of New York
A new course is offered this spring at CUNY Institute for Virtual Enterprise.

Cleaner waters
Hudson River Foundation issues report showing that health of New York Harbor has improved. [more]

Real-time monitoring
Stevens Institute of Technology launches New York City's first marine observatory.

Deep Urban Nature
Explore some of New York City's best nature preserves with the Parks Department.

The latest Buzz? Rooftop Honey
Honey Bees roam the Cityscape in search of flowers to pollinate. [more]

A Cooler New York
Learn how green roofs can bring temperatures down and improve water quality. [more]

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The Nature of New York - Land

Understanding the urban ecology of NYC starts with a knowledge of the land under our feet. Generally speaking, the geology of New York is as old as it is complex. NY is the only city in North America to be built on three distinct geological provinces, the Appalachian Piedmont Province, The New England Province and the Atlantic Coastal Plain. This kaleidoscope of underlying land formations has contributed to the City’s wide diversity of ecosystems. Most of the City’s bedrock consists of Fordham Gneiss in the Bronx, of Schist in Manhattan and even contains a rare strain of serpentinite on Staten Island. NY’s most visible geological landmarks include the terminal glacial moraines of Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island and the steep diabase cliffs of the New Jersey Palisades.

To explore the Land of New York, click on the links below:


Hardwood forests, sand dunes, extensive salt marshes, fresh water ponds and lakes… More than a dozen ecosystems - or habitat types - enhance the greater NYC landscape. Tucked away within the city limits, many of these remaining natural areas retain some degree of wild nature and functional ecosystem processes. They perform numerous ‘ecosystem services’ for the city; providing clean water and air, absorbing pollutants, buffering the heat island effect, improving public health and welfare and providing habitat for migratory animals while offering a glimpse into the city’s wild heritage.
NYC's natural areas cover 12 000 acres or more of undeveloped land. Wilder areas include the Hudson River and Estuary, the beaches and saltwater marshes of Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and Gateway National Recreation area; as well as numerous other, less known forests and grasslands.


Development and Sprawl

Today’s major threat to the land and ecology of the NYC region is low-density, land consumptive, auto-oriented development, a k a “sprawl." This unchecked form of development invariably leads to increased congestion and air pollution, emerging infectious diseases and, in the New York area specifically, dramatic losses in the region’s uniquely rich biological heritage. The Metropolitan Conservation Alliance is currently tackling the region’s wave of suburban sprawl by implementing innovative strategies for smart growth, in conjunction with local, urban planners. At stake is the tri-state region’s unique variety of habitats and biogeographical divisions, and unusually high diversity of temperate flora and fauna.
Similarly, unchecked coastal development can lead to marine pollution, depletion of oceanic ecologies and heightened erosion - especially in the advent of global warming.
Today, The Trust for Public Land searches to promote public land use and protection of scarce, remaining land within the city.


Introduced species

When introduced, plant and animal species from other parts of the globe may become “invasive” once they gain a foothold in urban and suburban environments. Their mode of entry into North America is usually through major ports such as New York. Their eruption into native ecosystems is usually facilitated by global trade, unchecked development such as sprawl, roads and general ecological disturbance. Once established, many exotic species – but not all – proliferate by out-competing or predating on local fauna and flora, thereby eradicating some native plants and animals and disrupting endemic ecologies and relationships.



The remaining ‘natural’ ecosystems of New York are often partially disturbed when not severely degraded. Many organizations are currently investing in rehabilitating native plant and animal communities at specific sites; with the hope of restoring ecological integrity and the types of ecological services that functionally restored ecosystems can provide. Such organizations include

New York’s largest current restoration project is that of the defunct Fresh Kills Landfill, once the largest dump in the world that many hope to see reclaimed as a rich mosaic of native forests, marsh and grassland. Other restoration sites include the grasslands of Floyd Bennett Field and Big Egg salt marshes of Jamaica Bay.



Content © 2004 - The City Universtity of New York - 535 East 80th Street, New York, NY 10021 (website)
Pictures © 2004 - Cal Vornberger (website)