Third Annual New York City EcoFlora Conference
Join the foremost practitioners in the conservation of rare plants in New York State and New York City as they present the methods used to monitor and conserve rare species and what the public can do to help.
As we learned during the Second Annual New York City EcoFlora Conference in 2019, The Historical Flora of New York City: Implications for Conservation Action, since 1800 an estimated 500 species of plants have disappeared from the New York City flora. These species can be found outside the City, but are no longer found in the five boroughs. Another 250 species are thought to be rare in the City, known from only one or two populations.
A Q&A session will follow the presentations.
About the New York City EcoFlora Project
Learn more about The New York City EcoFlora project, engaging New Yorkers in protecting and preserving the City’s native plant species, and assembling new, original observations and data on the City’s flora to better inform policy decisions about management and conservation of the City’s natural resources.
Welcome and Introduction from the Host & Moderator
Brian M. Boom, Curator Emeritus, The New York Botanical Garden
Keeping Track of New York’s Rare Plants: The New York Natural Heritage Program and Rare Plant Exploration
Steve Young, Chief Botanist for the New York Natural Heritage Program, a program of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry
Documenting and Protecting the Rare Plants of New York City
Clara Holmes, Field Scientist, Forestry, Horticulture, and Natural Resources, at New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
How Do We Know What’s Rare and What’s Common?
Daniel Atha, Director of Conservation Outreach at The New York Botanical Garden
Brian M. Boom
Brian M. Boom is Curator Emeritus at The New York Botanical Garden.
Dr. Boom’s most recent principal responsibility at NYBG was to provide executive leadership for the Center for Conservation Strategy during the past five years. For the past four decades, he has studied and published on plants in the United States and throughout Latin America and the Caribbean; for the past decade, his geographic and research focus has been on conservation in Cuba. He has held various administrative posts in the Science and Development divisions at NYBG, including that of Director of Science Development. Dr. Boom led the effort at NYBG to determine the degree of endangerment of plant species throughout the Americas using a rapid assessment protocol developed at NYBG. Closer to home, he led a project to help conserve North American Ash tree species, which are threatened with devastation due to an invasive beetle, the Emerald Ash Borer. He directed the New York City EcoFlora project, a citizen-science research initiative that connects urban people and nature and that provides the first dynamic, freely accessible online database about the native and naturalized plant species and their ecological partners in NYC. Dr. Boom received his Ph.D. from The Graduate Center of The City University of New York.
Steve Young is in his 30th year as Chief Botanist for the New York Natural Heritage Program, a program of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry based in Albany.
Steve will discuss the field techniques and other methods of finding information about where our rare plants grow and how they are doing. The New York Natural Heritage Program assesses the status of rare species and ecological communities across the state. The botany program tracks 633 plants that have fewer than 30 occurrences in the state and are considered highly vulnerable to extirpation. Since the early 1800s botanists and plant enthusiasts have been collecting specimens and information on the distribution of plants in New York and since the 1840s have been interested in knowing which ones are rare. The Natural Heritage Program botanists continue this work using advanced technology as well as tried-and-true methods to continually update the status of our state’s rare plants.
Steve received his B.S. in Environmental and Resource Management from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry and his M.S. in Taxonomic Botany from the University of Florida. He has explored habitats all over New York State from the wilds of the Adirondacks to the urban parks of New York City inventorying and studying its rare plants. He is an author of the online New York Rare Plant Conservation Guides and the New York Rare Plant Status Lists. He is also the founder of the Adirondack Botanical Society, past coordinator of the Long Island Invasive Species Management Area, and secretary of the New York Flora Association.
Clara Holmes is Field Scientist, Forestry, Horticulture, and Natural Resources, at New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.
Clara will focus on efforts NYC Parks is taking to preserve our imperiled flora, which range from monitoring the federally threatened Seabeach Amaranth to tracking state and locally sensitive species by park. A recent study found that over 500 plant species have gone extinct in the last 250 years, more than twice the number of birds, mammals, and amphibians combined. Meanwhile, research continues to highlight the importance of urban areas in biodiversity conservation. Scientists argue that because cities are often located in landscapes with naturally high geomorphological and biological richness, they harbor high numbers of species, and reflect their regional species pool. The current checklist of NYC’s flora consists of 258 species listed as rare (42), threatened (76), endangered (139), or extinct (1) at the state level. Many more species may be at risk on a local level. Rare plant species are often associated with distinct plant communities and found within unique habitats. Preserving these species, their associates, and habitats is an important aspect of conserving the rich biodiversity of NYC.
Most of Clara’s fieldwork consists of monitoring vegetation pre- and post-restoration, and tracking rare plant populations in NYC Parks. She holds a Master’s of Science from Pace University and Bachelor of Arts from the College of Charleston.
Daniel Atha is Director of Conservation Outreach at The New York Botanical Garden and manager of the New York City EcoFlora.
Daniel will discuss how the New York City EcoFlora project has transformed our understanding of New York City’s wild flora, combining big data and community science to build the most comprehensive dataset ever assembled. The EcoFlora has empowered all New Yorkers to contribute their knowledge about the plants and animals of the City via iNaturalist, a free, easy-to-use program for smartphone and computer. Monthly EcoQuest challenges keep users engaged and help build awareness and appreciation for nature in City. In a few months, the milestone of 500,000 observations will be reached. These half-million occurrence records reveal what plants are common, what plants are less common and by process of elimination what plants are potentially rare and warrant further study.
Daniel has conducted botanical field work in all fifty states, published one book and over 50 scientific articles ranging from ethnobotany, pharmacognosy, systematics and floristics, and currently manages NYBG’s New York City EcoFlora project. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from the City University of New York.
Seabeach Amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus), a federally threatened species, is known from approximately 50 populations on barrier beaches from New York to South Carolina. Measures to protect Turtles and Plovers also benefit the plant. Photo by Daniel Atha
The New York Botanical Garden gratefully acknowledges the collaboration of the New York Flora Association, The New York Natural Heritage Program, and the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation.
Financial Support for the Conference
This Conference was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services [MG-70-19-0057-19]
Financial Support for the Humanities Institute
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation