Tag Archives: pollution

The Urban forest that is New York City

Callery Pear trees in bloom

Callery Pear trees in bloom

I lived in that jungle for nineteen years.  During that period, I owned a home on Riverside Drive and 77th Street, on the Upper West side. During that period, a tree died in front of our Whitestone building.  I undertook the task of getting one tree replanted there.  I learned that there is only ONE man in charge of planting trees in Manhattan, the department that controls this is titled Manhattan Forest Department, and being the determined New Yorker, I hounded his voice mail until one was placed in front of my home. It took months!  I built a boxed-in wood frame to hold dirt and moister from four by fours, and watered it faithfully. The replacement tree was the renowned London Plain tree that adapts well to polluted environs, like London.  It flourished under my care, and lives to this day.

Jill Hubley's NYC Street Trees map shows off the 52 species of trees that grow along New York City's streets, map by Jill Hubley

Jill Hubley’s NYC Street Trees map shows off the 52 species of trees that grow along New York City’s streets, map by Jill Hubley

Starting in May 2015, the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation will begin a five to seven month-long street census to locate and identify the species of every street-side tree.  There are 592,130 street trees (52 species) in New York.  Queens has the  most trees, honey locusts, rarely found in the Northeast, are found in great numbers on the streets of Manhattan. Callery pears, a invasive species from China, are all over the region, particularly in Staten Island (but they smell like rotting fish, chlorine or semen).

New York now plants just 20 or 30 Callerys per year, while literally thousands are lost to attrition (from storm damage and such). Jeremy Barrick, the deputy chief of forestry, horticulture and natural resources at the Parks Department, expects the Callery to lose its number 3 spot in the 2015 census. He anticipates a total Callery count of roughly 30,000—a 50-percent decline from 2006.

The Callery pear is an invasive species that has taken over many of New York’s sidewalks, map by Jill Hubley

The Callery pear is an invasive species that has taken over many of New York’s sidewalks, map by Jill Hubley

Even when it comes to species you might expect to find in New York—such as oak, maple, and elm—the Parks Department chose to plant Asian cultivars instead of North American ones. “There’s only one oak species on the list that isn’t from Asia—and it’s an English oak, native to Europe,” says Doug Tallamy, a wildlife ecologist from the University of Delaware.

The solutions to this  linear planting scheme are actually quite easy to implement. Many of the Asian cultivars can be replaced with a North American counterpart—such as Chinese elms with American elms, or Japanese and Norway maples with sugar maples. Tallamy dismisses any grumblings that native species are too big or too difficult to grow as nonsense. “We have native species that are smaller that we can still grow—we just need to start planting them.”

Promenade in Bryant Park, London plane trees, platanus acerifolia, in midtown

Promenade in Bryant Park, London plane trees, platanus acerifolia, in midtown

Rich Hallett, an ecologist at the US Forest Service’s Northern Research Station, cites plans to integrate the data on a digital platform that can be updated in real time and act as a “living document.”

There are other factors impacting ‘greenification’ of our urban areas.  In San Francisco, the resident population in the ‘outer Sunset and Richmond’ (which is virtually treeless) do not favor trees, and have been reported to kill them with scalding water because they feel they are ‘dirty’ and need maintenance.

So it is not everyone who wishes to promote tree propagation in the US.

Special thanks to Neel V. Patel of Wired Magazine for his inspiring research.

NOTE: All maps in this post developed by Brooklyn web developer (and amazing artist) Jill Hubley

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The Demise of Bivalves and Shell Creation

oyster new york

 

The acidification of Oceans is well documented.  Many species are unable to survive the increase of acid occurring so the ability of the Oceans to absorb carbon dioxide is radically diminishing.  One of the drastic affects of this process is the inability of the bivalves to create shells.  This was exacerbated by the National Park Service’s decision to close a very important supplier in Northern California of these delicate creatures, Drakes Bay Oyster Farm-the largest of the lot and provider of up to forty percent for the other companies.  In 2013, they raised eight million oysters.  An oyster can filter up to forty gallons of water a day.

Kevin Lunny, owner of federaaly closed Drakes Bay Oyster Company

Kevin Lunny, owner of federally closed Drakes Bay Oyster Company

After much litigation and pubic outcry, Drakes Bay Oyster Company will close this year after eighty years in existence.  It does reside on federal lands.  All the other suppliers, most notable is the Hog Island Oyster Company on Tomales Bay, depend on them.  Drive up Route One any weekend day, and the road is congested with cars parked cheek to jowl up the entire coastline.

Publisher enjoying the spoils of Drake's Bay Oysters. Photo by Shaun Fenn

Publisher enjoying the spoils of Drake’s Bay Oysters. Photo by Shaun Fenn

Like New York, documented in the wonderful book Oysters, San Francisco was awash in oysters as the settlers arrived.  They were a mainstay in the diets, including being sold from carts on the streets, but before too long they were depleted by overfishing. Oysters began to be ‘seeded’ by the mid-1850s.  This hatchery process is very delicate and concentrated in the Pacific Northwest, starting with microscopic larvae, it has become a very scientific process.

Acidification of nautilus seashells

Acidification of nautilus seashells

Humans are dumping seventy million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every day.  Oceans absorbs about a third of it.   The Ocean is now thirty percent more acidic than it was two hundred years ago.  It is not the acid that prevents the oysters from growing shells, but the concomitant lack of carbonate ions in the water.  They need these ions to build their shells.  This is compounded in the Pacific Ocean by the upwelling of water that has spent 30 – 50 years in depths that have absorbed more carbon dioxide from decomposition in the Ocean.

Ocean Acidification diagram

Ocean Acidification diagram

When oysters are grown in the vats as larvae, adding pH-raising chemicals can control water conditions.  But when it is time for them to be set out in the Ocean for one to two years to mature, they are vulnerable to the vagaries of the conditions.  Seeds are now at a premium and the suppliers cannot meet the demand. One of the largest, Whiskey Creek, produces only 25% of its demands despite the buffering of the pH.  Furthermore, the seeds are much less healthy and fewer survive to maturity.

Gutting0007

Woman shucking oysters on the waterfront

UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab partnered with Hog Island in 2012 to collect data on the water conditions. This author grew oysters in Tomales Bay for a few years in a community program with the intention of starting a commercial fishery.  The governmental restrictions were too onerous to overcome.  In contrast to Marin County, Humboldt County, to the north, is assisting farmers to develop fisheries; in fact Hog Island is starting a hatchery there now.

17 vintage postcard italy fishing boat catania

In only fifteen years, according to the respected publication, Nature, acid levels will increase to a level of no retreat that will not be able to support oysters, as well as other shellfish – clams, mussels and snails.  If India continues to dig deeper for dirty coal without regard to emissions as they have stated, and the GOP win their battle for the XL Pipeline shipping sludge that is twenty percent more polluting while taking three gallons of water for one gallon of sludge to produce, stripping forests – the conditions of the fisheries will be extinct by 2050.

Oyster feast. Photo by Kim Steele

Oyster feast. Photo by Kim Steele