by Alissa Brown
“The croak gave it away” states the recent New York Times article describing the new species of leopard frog found on Staten Island. New animal species are typically found in remote places, so this discovery is surprising and highlights the importance for ecological restoration in urban areas.
Restoration efforts in the high-density New York-New Jersey area can bring back habitat and biodiversity. This is not lost on Great Ecology, which has been involved for over a decade with habitat restoration projects in this area while increasing human accessibility to valuable wildlife resources. On one such project Great Ecology staff (on the Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Inc. team) assisted in the design of ecological features for the Brooklyn Bridge Park , the largest urban park project in New York City since 1875. New recreational areas within the park provide public access to restored native coastal and intertidal habitats. Educational opportunities such as the Seining the River Wild program at the Park allows participants to learn about the variety of aquatic species present in the East River.
Even common species benefit from restoring habitat which can, in turn, benefit their human neighbors. Oysters are returning to polluted New York waterways where they can filter up to 30 gallons of water a day, removing organic and inorganic pollutants. Oyster reefs not only improve water quality, but also provide habitat for other aquatic species. In 2010, a group of scientists, non-profit groups, and government agencies placed 50,000 oysters in the Bronx River as part of a research project to determine the feasibility of oyster reef restoration.
Some restoration projects require the consideration of a larger system to protect and maintain unique habitat functions. Currently, Great Ecology, teamed with Hargreaves Associates, is assisting the National Parks Service and the New York City Department of Parks to create a comprehensive vision for the future of Jamaica Bay. The Bay, a 10,000 acre estuary within New York Harbor, plays an integral role in the life cycle of native and protected fish and shore bird species. Great Ecology is helping to envision a Bay that sustains biodiversity, is resilient to climate change and marshland erosion, and encourages visitorship and the development of environmental education programs. Great Ecology has also been working on a project for the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary Program, assessing the vulnerability of marsh habitat and public access infrastructure to sea level rise at select sites.
Restoration projects like these help to foster stewardship among New Yorkers through education, encouragement of recreational use, and protection of wild spaces. Great Ecology’s efforts within the New York-New Jersey waterways demonstrate our commitment to providing healthy environments for both humans and wildlife in heavily urbanized areas.