Many urbanites in America feel that their only connection to nature is through their city’s public parks. New Yorkers make up half of the population. The United States has over 1 million acres of urban parkland. These parks are just like wilderness areas, coastlines and other parts of the national landscape that are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Urban parks are often described as invisible or forgotten infrastructure. There aren’t any common maps, unified information sources or policy recommendations that can help cities manage and protect these vital greenspaces.
The Yale School of the Environment has partnered with the University of California, Berkeley to bridge this critical knowledge gap. Central Park ConservancyNew York City Natural Areas ConservancyA new initiative was launched to study the impact of climate change on urban parks. The Central Park Climate Lab’s ultimate goal is to collaborate with cities across America to develop and implement urban park strategies that adapt to climate change.
Professor David A. Smith said that urbanization plays a growing role in how we manage global climate change. Karen SetoFrederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography at the Yale School of the Environment. This collaboration will make use of mapping and other tools to create urban interventions that protect their urban parksland and adapt to climate changes.
YSE Professor of Soils and Ecosystem Ecology Mark Bradford The initiative will also include YSE alumni Sarah Charlop-Powers09 MEM Clara Pregitzer20 PhD from Natural Areas Conservancy. They will be working with the Central Park Conservancy team.
The research will begin in Central Park and expand to other New York City greenspaces. Finally, the Lab will explore the possibility of implementing climate mitigation and adaptation protocols in selected city parks throughout the country. The Lab will develop new, scalable strategies that can be used to implement climate mitigation or adaption protocols within urban parks across the U.S. Using the data collected, the Lab will also create new, scalable solutions. Central Park, which has been impacted by some the most severe effects of climatechange over the past decade, is an ideal setting for studying climate change adaptation in urban park.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams said that while parks are vital for New Yorkers, they also pose a threat to their wellbeing. The Central Park Climate Lab is a new era for research and collaboration that will give park professionals more tools to combat climate crisis. It will also serve as a model for urban parks throughout the country.
Hurricane Ida brought Central Park a record 3.15 ins of rain in one hour on September 1, 2021. This beat the record set just 10 day earlier. In July 2021, Central Park was hit with at least four heat waves. In August, it had at least two. (Extreme Heat is now the number-one weather-related cause for death in the U.S.). Harmful algal blooms have become a growing problem all over the globe, including in Central Park’s water bodies. The daily management challenges associated with serving dense urban areas are made worse by climate change. Central Park receives more visitors per year than Disney Worlds Magic Kingdom. (Central Park receives 42 million visitors annually, compared to the Magic Kingdoms 20.8 millions.
After experiencing the impacts of climate change on Central Park management, the Central Park Conservancy started this effort. Elizabeth W. Smith, president and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy, stated that severe weather events such as unprecedented rainfall, blizzards and high winds, as well as extreme heat and cold, can strain resources and impact Central Park’s tree canopy, plants and wildlife. All of these are vital for the health of our city.
Cities across the country will have access to data, resources, tools, and information through this partnership that will help them to defend their urban parks and to make use of these vital spaces to protect their city.
Charlop-Powers, executive director of NACs, stated that the Natural Areas Conservancy is delighted to be a partner with the Central Park Conservancy, Yale School of the Environment, and this innovative initiative. Our organization has spent years studying the unique role that natural areas parkland in cities forests and wetlands can play to mitigate climate change. This project will shed light on the importance urban natural areas for addressing climate crisis.
* Mary Caraccioli and Salmaan Khan from the Central Park ConservancyTessa O’Connell and the Natural Areas ConservancyThis article was contributed by.
** Aerial photo courtesy of Central Park Conservancy