Monday, May 25, 2015

Biodiversity in NYC



You may think I am going to sing again praises to my city about its cultural diversity—that 150 languages are spoken in the borough of Queens alone, that sort of wonder.  Not this time.  It’s a holiday weekend here in the US—Memorial Day, the one that officially kicks of the summer season.  So I think it’s time to focus on the great outdoors and wildlife.  In Manhattan, where I am confined today, that means Central Park.



Don’t laugh.



First of all, the park’s very existence of makes a huge difference.  Even if we do not live near it, even if we seldom go there, we inhabitants of the concrete are always, on some level, aware of its openness.   Somehow that knowledge gives the city a more benign feel.  Evidently, Central Park also does more for us than that lovely psychological favor.  Experts say it would cost more than $3 trillion to purify our air and water by any other means than the natural ones the city’s parks provide.


Then there are the marvelous facts about the park’s living organisms.  Central Park, as you may know, is not a gorgeous preservation of a natural part of Manhattan Island.  What was originally there was bulldozed and replaced with a designed pleasure-land for people to enjoy.   In addition to the residents of the zoo, it harbors 896 species: 393 plants, 102 invertebrates, 78 varieties of moths, ten of spiders, nine of dragonflies, three of turtles, two species of frogs, and seven of mammals (not counting picnickers, ice cream vendors, softball players, opera singers, or actors of Shakespeare)!

American elms alive and well!


The gorgeous American elm tree is just about extinct elsewhere, killed off by Dutch elm disease.  Yet, a lovely large stand survives in Central Park.

Years ago, the Scott Seed Company, looking for the strongest variety of lawn grass, found a unique species in Central Park.  Where else?



My favorite study of diversity in the park is the one of the microbes in the soil.  Those tiny critters determine the chemistry and health of dirt.  Studies throughout the world over the past couple of decades counted the number of different microbes in soil in different places.  For a long time, no one thought research that question in Central Park.  When they did—last year—guess what they found.  170,000 different kinds—as much diversity as there is anywhere else.   And apparently, about 2000 of them are unique to our gorgeous green rectangle.








Living in and around the 174 species of Central Park’s trees are hundreds of varieties of birds.  Depending on the time of year, you might see starlings, mourning doves, mallards, robins, waxwings—I could go on and on.   One group found 46 species in a single day.


Night heron in Central Park



Of the birds of the park and the city in general, my absolute favorite is the red-tail hawk.  Raptors need high places for nesting and a supply of prey free from agricultural chemicals.   There are several mating pairs that come to Manhattan to hatch and raise their babies.  It’s a thrill for me to see them circling in the skies overhead.  If you want to learn more about them you can read at the Audubon website and see the babies here:





Too cute, huh?


Annamaria – Memorial Day 2015

16 comments:

  1. I never think of you as being "too cute." Just plain perfect, like Central Park in late May....

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    1. Thanks, Bro. It's your home too. Sort of.

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  2. It's wonderful that one can find interesting and important natural environments in the middle of cities.

    I love the Black-crowned night herons! As you probably know, the same species haunts drinking holes in the African bush and billabongs in Australia. I guess the ones in NYC are more sophisticated though!

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    2. Michael, I find that wonderful too. Those 19th century humanitarians knew that we should be building parks. Thank goodness that they did not think like today's politicians, or we would not have postage stamp to play on.
      I never saw the black-crowned night heron in the bush. It doesn't surprise me that one finds those "New Yorkers" ranging far and wide. We are by and large an adventurous bunch.
      Your remark about sophistication reminds me of an event in my daughter's childhood. She collected a pollywog from a stream on our farm in the northern Catskills. We put it in a gallon jug,and she took it home for show and tell. Two weeks later when we returned to the country, we all sang "Born Free" and poured the little guy back in the stream. By then, his brothers and sisters had grown much more than he. My daughter was dismayed but brightened when I reminded her, that they were bigger, but they had not been to New York City.

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  3. Charming, delightful, uplifting... we need these thoughts as we listen to the world on TV and read about it in the Grey Lady... tjstraw

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    1. It is daunting, Thelma. What a blessing that we have friends to keep us supplied with calmer thoughts.

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  4. I spent the morning banging my head against a wall of stubborn code, then spent the afternoon reclaiming a swarm of honeybees from the top of a 25-foot redwood tree (the bees had split from one of my hives, that's how they reproduce), then collected our EIGHTH egg from our 4-month-old hens, and I've JUST survived 45 minutes on my orbital torture device. So, we're 3-for-3 on biodiversity in this neighborhood... :-)

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    1. I get it all but the "orbital torture device." But I am not sure it's polite to ask. Or if I want to know. Is this how you spend a holiday? If so, please do not tell me about your works days. I would feel like such a slacker.

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    2. Was yesterday a holiday? Sheesh, my boss never told me. What a slave driver!

      The "orbital torture device" is not a spacecraft, but rather a machine for walking/running while trying to postpone the inevitable... so far with moderate success.

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  5. Thank you for the lovely pictures of Central Park. I, too, love this city.

    What also are sites to behold are the botanical gardens. Right now, there is a Frida Kahlo exhibit at the New York Botanical Garden, with plants and flowers in abundance.

    Love the birds, too.

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    1. Kathy, Funny you should emotion the Frida Kahlo show. I am making a date with a friend to go to see it. We are lucky to be in place with all that beauty is a subway ride away.

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  6. I had planned a whole hour for 'the park' in my NY holiday itinerary. In the end I spend the whole day and more. A good portion of that was watching the turtles laze about in the sunshine.
    It's a fascinating place and I've planned a whole day this time, to see it in its autumn colours.

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    1. Caro, When you spend your time in the park, I will gladly bring you a picnic, and share it with you in the Conservancy Gardens--pictured above with the trees in glorious bloom a few weeks ago.

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