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Kf mexico dolphin pc c.simon 2014
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Taken in Mar de Cortez, Baja California Sur, Mexico. —Cecilia Simon, 2014 Fellow

Resources

Read articles about the practice of market-based conservation.

The Natural Areas Conservancy recently completed its first project, an ecological and social assessment of all significant natural areas under the jurisdiction of NYC Parks. This is the largest dataset of ecological health for any urban area in the nation, and provides us with a chance to shift from an opportunistic to a data-driven decision-making approach for restoration, conservation, and the creation of resilient landscapes.


Since participating in Kinship Conservation Fellows in 2009, I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see an uptick in the use of market-based mechanisms to address challenges in the field of urban conservation. With the majority of the world’s people living in urban areas, there is an increased interest in understanding how natural spaces in cities function, in quantifying the values that they provide, and in using nature-based solutions in response to pressures including rising temperatures and regional flooding.

In 2012, I co-founded the Natural Areas Conservancy, a privately-funded non-profit which works closely with New York City Department of Parks and Recreation (NYC Parks) to manage the more than 10,000 acres of publicly owned forests and wetlands in New York City.  We work citywide, conducting research, creating data-driven best management practices, creating green jobs, and offering public programs. We are building upon the known and anticipated role that natural areas will play in helping to address issues of landscape resiliency, reducing inequality, and improving human health.

Marine Park - Brooklyn, NYC

The Natural Areas Conservancy recently completed its first project, an ecological and social assessment of all significant natural areas under the jurisdiction of NYC Parks. These studies have resulted in a comprehensive dataset, establishing a benchmark of the ecological condition of natural areas, and providing valuable information about how these places are used and valued by park visitors. We conducted research in more than 50 parks, including forests, salt marshes, freshwater marshes, and grasslands. We also interviewed 1,600 park users (in partnership with the US Forest Service) to better understand how these places are used by local communities.

Research group

Our research focused on the following questions:

  • What is the condition of natural areas in NYC?
  • Who is using natural areas and how?
  • What long-term management strategies can we recommend to improve degraded areas and protect high-quality sites?

Our results highlight the diversity of our ecosystems as well as some of the challenges and opportunities present to restoring and protecting our natural areas in ways that address the physical site conditions and the community needs. The Natural Areas Conservancy’s research allows for this type of nuance compared to one-size fits all restoration models. Our results include detailed information about the user experience of visitors to our forests and wetlands, and invaluable data about plant regeneration, species distribution, and the extent of invasive plants in our natural areas.

More and more, caring for urban natural areas is seen not as an operational mandate, but as an opportunity to increase the human and ecological health, while promoting resilience in the face of environmental threats.

Pelham Bay Park - Bronx, NYC

This is the largest dataset of ecological health for any urban area in the nation, and provides us with a chance to shift from an opportunistic to a data-driven decision-making approach for restoration, conservation, and the creation of resilient landscapes. More and more, caring for urban natural areas is seen not as an operational mandate, but as an opportunity to increase the human and ecological health, while promoting resilience in the face of environmental threats. At the Natural Areas Conservancy, we are excited to work in this innovative field, and look forward to collaborating with our colleagues in cities around the world.


About the Author

Sarah Charlop-Powers (2009 Fellow) is the Executive Director of the Natural Areas Conservancy. She has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Binghamton University and a master’s degree in environmental management from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Contact Sarah: sarah.charlop-powers@parks.nyc.gov.


More and more, caring for urban natural areas is seen not as an operational mandate, but as an opportunity to increase the human and ecological health, while promoting resilience in the face of environmental threats.


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