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Central Park is home to a cutting-edge Climate Lab

Central Park is home to a cutting-edge Climate Lab

Central Park

New York is home to what could become a major player against the climate crisis: The Central Park Climate Lab.

A partnership between the Central Park Conservancy, the Yale School of the Environment and the Natural Areas Conservancy, the initiative seeks to join the study of the “on-the-ground impacts of climate change on urban parks” by using our very own green space as a sort of laboratory for the field. 

“Some of the changes that we have seen over time, like the amount of precipitation we’re getting or the extreme heat events, are increasing at a rapid pace and it’s important that we start to quantify these things over the long term,” explains Salmaan Kahn, the lab’s Director of Research and Special Projects. “If it rains heavily, for instance, it can affect the tree canopies. This leads to an increase is shade, which means that stuff won’t grow below them.

Central Park
Photograph: Courtesy Central Park Conservancy

In addition to the impact that shifting weather patterns have on the park itself, Kahn explains how the issues directly affect the day-to-day operation of the area. “We have 42 million visitors each year. If we start to notice that 50% of the time we see an extreme weather phenomenon, it changes how we manage and protect the park. [that is meaningful]”Yes,” says the expert.

With that in mind, the Central Park Climate Lab has come up with a three-tier plan whose end goal is to work with cities all across the United States to help them implement urban park strategies meant to mitigate the impact of climate change while also understanding how to make local green spaces more resilient.

To get things started, the organization will start collecting on-the ground research that will help shape Central Park’s management. Using the data, the project will then expand to include other parts on New York, hoping to use the park’s blueprint as a guide when dealing with different areas. The third step is to establish relationships with several American cities. “What we hope to do is to share best practices, information, and research with other cities to keep pace with the impact of climate change. [their spaces],” says Kahn. 

Central Park
Photograph: Courtesy Central Park Conservancy

Kahn acknowledges the contentiousness of some conversations about climate change, especially when it comes to interactions with non-New Yorkers. “When we expand our work to other places we have to take into account the fact that some people don’t think climate change [is something to focus on]He said it matter-of-factly. “When it comes time to have those difficult conversations, at least people have the information and materials to make decisions. The project’s value is not affected by this.

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New Yorkers should not expect to see a laboratory in their favorite park anytime soon. Central Park will be the lab where the team will work.

Kahn mentions that he hopes all operations will be up and running by Earth Day, April 22nd. This is why he is actively looking for the Central Park Conservancy’s very first director. Manager of Climate Change Research

As virtually the only massive green space in all of New York City, Central Park holds a special place in urbanites’ hearts—not to mention its importance when looking at urban parks all throughout the country. It is not yet clear if the lab will achieve its ultimate goal of forming guidelines across other cities, but it is exciting to know that there will now an entire organization dedicated for the long-term preservation of such a vital part of the city’s character and physical makeup. 

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