Exploring the science of plants, from the field to the lab

Environment

Balancing Conservation and Commerce: NYBG and JetBlue Launch the Caribbean Consortium

Posted in Environment on April 13, 2018 by Stevenson Swanson

Stevenson Swanson is the Science Media Manager at The New York Botanical Garden.


IUCN Red-Listed Species
As shown here, many of Cuba’s endangered plant species are in currently unprotected areas that could be developed. Click for a closer look.

Representatives of The New York Botanical Garden and JetBlue Airways launched their new Caribbean Consortium at a recent meeting at the Botanical Garden’s Pfizer Plant Research Laboratory. The consortium, which was announced in February, will address the linked issues of conservation and commerce across the Caribbean, a vital part of JetBlue’s network and a longtime focus of the Garden’s Plant Research and Conservation program.

With the goal of striking a balance between conservation and commerce, the consortium will bring together a cross-section of key stakeholders from business, academia, and non-governmental organizations, such as the Center for International Policy, a Washington, D.C., foreign policy research and advocacy group, whose Cuban program director, Elizabeth Newhouse, participated in the meeting. Also joining was Robert Muse, a Washington attorney who has worked on Cuban issues since the early 1990s.

“This partnership with JetBlue is going to help translate conservation research into conservation action,” said Brian Boom, Ph.D., the Garden’s Vice President for Conservation Strategy, who has traveled to Cuba regularly since 1988 to conduct research and build relationships with his Cuban counterparts.

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Is Restoration a Solution for the Invasive Species Problem?

Posted in Environment on December 15, 2017 by Jessica Arcate Schuler

Jessica A. Schuler is Director of the Thain Family Forest at The New York Botanical Garden.


ISS
Invasive plant, Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). Photo credit: Esin Ütün

The tone surrounding the term “invasive species” is most frequently negative. That’s understandable, considering that invasive species—exotic species that cause harm to the ecosystem they are occupying—are one of the top three threats to biodiversity worldwide, along with climate change and habitat destruction. On Friday, November 3, 2017, NYBG and the Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (PRISM) co-presented Invasive Species Summit: Restoration and Long-term Management, which brought a positive note of restoration to the invasive species discussion (visit the NYBG YouTube Channel for a recording of the full program).

This all-day program started with Paddy Woodworth, award-winning Irish journalist and author of “Our Once and Future Planet”, who introduced the subject of ecological restoration—the process of assisting in the recovery of an ecosystem that has been degraded, damaged, or destroyed—and showcased the example of Working for Water, a large-scale, South African program that has been managing invasive plants since 1995. As a writer, Paddy brings a unique perspective to the topic, warning that the negative words used with conservation are concerning. Ecological restoration provides a positive perspective and an outlet of tangible action items in which everyone can participate, from their own backyards to following the Society for Ecological Restoration  International Standards in larger-scale restoration projects.

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In Search of Invasive Plant Species in the Lower Hudson Region

Posted in Environment on August 10, 2017 by Jessica Arcate Schuler

Jessica Arcate-Schuler is NYBG‘s Director of the Thain Family Forest.


Invasives map
Map courtesy of LHPrism.org

Since 2013, NYBG has partnered with the Lower Hudson Partnership for Regional Invasive Species Management (LHPRISM) to identify, monitor, manage, and educate about invasive species in our region, which includes Manhattan, Bronx, Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, Rockland and the eastern parts of Sullivan and Ulster Counties (map image credit: http://lhprism.org/)

An invasive species is defined as a species that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and causes or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health. Did you know that there are 146 invasive plant species that threaten the Lower Hudson Region’s ecosystems?

This season, NYBG hosted a citizen science training for the LHPRISM 2017 BlockBuster Survey that taught volunteers how to identify and monitor for 27 of the terrestrial plant species that have limited data in New York’s online mapping program called iMapInvasives and are regional candidates for eradication and containment. In one day, 22 volunteers learned how to identify each plant species, how to sample following the survey protocol, and use an app to collect the data. What makes this survey effort unique, is the extensive regional searching for presence and absence of each of the 27 terrestrial plant species. Each volunteer or team was assigned a three-mile by three-mile grid in which they have until mid September to search for the invasive species of interest.

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Getting Lichens on the List—The IUCN Red List, That Is

Posted in Environment on February 19, 2016 by James Lendemer

James C. Lendemer, Ph.D., is an Assistant Curator in the Institute of Systematic Botany at The New York Botanical Garden. Lichens, which include a fungal component, are his primary research interest.


Cladonia_appalachensis_Lendemer
Cladonia appalachensis (credit: James Lendemer)

Lichens, like other fungi, are poorly represented in conservation efforts in the United States and Canada as well as most other countries outside of Europe. At the beginning of 2015, only two lichens were protected under the US Endangered Species Act, 16 were protected under similar legislation in Canada, and two were listed internationally on the Red List of threatened species, which is maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). At the state level, slightly higher numbers of lichens and other fungi are protected, although coverage is highly variable and no state has a comprehensive assessment of all the lichens within its borders.

The lack of protections for lichens is not, however, due to a lack of knowledge about the threats species face and the declines they have already suffered. Instead, there is a tremendous wealth of information stored in museums and in decades of firsthand knowledge held in the minds of American and Canadian lichenologists.

Recognizing that lichens were neither unknown nor unknowable, we organized a meeting at The New York Botanical Garden to advance the cause of lichen conservation internationally. For three days last year, we met with Troy McMullin, Ph.D., from the Canadian Museum of Nature and Christoph Scheidegger, Ph.D., from the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow, and Landscape Research. Our goal was to produce the first complete IUCN assessments for a selection of lichens from North America that we knew to be threatened or endangered.

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Paris Conference Concludes with Accord on Climate Change, Emphasizing a Huge Role for the World’s Forests

Posted in Environment on December 14, 2015 by Brian Boom

Brian M. Boom, Ph.D., is Vice President for Conservation Strategy; Director, NYBG Press and Science Outreach; and Bassett Maguire Curator of Botany at NYBG.


Rio Falsino Brazil Rainforest
As noted in my most recent post, negotiators at the Paris climate conference, known as COP21, emphasized the importance of the role of forests in addressing global warming.

The big news in the resulting accord, signed by 195 countries on December 12, appeared in Article 2 on page 21, which calls for holding the increase in the global average temperature to “well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.”

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A Biological Strategy for Cooling a Warming Planet

Posted in Environment on December 9, 2015 by Brian Boom

Brian M. Boom, Ph.D., is Vice President for Conservation Strategy; Director, NYBG Press and Science Outreach; and Bassett Maguire Curator of Botany at NYBG.


Part of Myanmar’s Vast Forested Area
Part of Myanmar’s Vast Forested Area

Negotiators at the Paris climate change conference (known as COP21) are in the final stretch of their effort to reach a broad accord to limit carbon emissions. Switching to alternative sources of energy that do not rely on fossil fuels, such as wind, solar, nuclear, and geothermal, is a big component of the debate, alongside controversial approaches to sequestering carbon by means of “geoengineering.”

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As Negotiators Debate Climate Change in Paris, Some Nations Already Feel the Impacts of a Warming World

Posted in Environment on December 4, 2015 by Brian Boom

Brian M. Boom, Ph.D., is Vice President for Conservation Strategy, Director, NYBG Press and Science Outreach, and Bassett Maguire Curator of Botany at NYBG.


Climate changeDelegates at COP 21, the climate change conference in Paris, are debating the implications of global warming under various levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide in the years 2030, 2050, and beyond, but a subset of those delegates hailing from the South Pacific region are emphasizing that, for their nations, the future of climate change is now, as this recent New York Times story reported. Rising sea levels are threatening to engulf these low-lying islands.

Regular readers of this blog will know that The New York Botanical Garden is deeply engaged in a research and conservation project in the South Pacific, especially in Vanuatu, an island nation with a population of about 225,000 people who are spread over 65 islands and speak more than 113 indigenous languages; for a Science Talk post and short video about NYBG’s research in Vanuatu, see From the Field: A Botany Lesson in Vanuatu.

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