Image underneath a forest canopy.

Forest Research

Forest research at NYBG

At The New York Botanical Garden we are committed to the study, conservation, and sustainable management of forests, locally and globally–from the Bronx to Brazil.

Forests, which cover about 30% of the world’s land surface, are greatly threatened by unsustainable harvesting, habitat destruction, fires, diseases, and climate change. The primary tropical rain forests, where most of the earth’s biodiversity resides, are especially endangered. Globally, more than 50,000 square miles of forest, an area larger than the total land surface of New York State, are lost every year.

But hope for reversing the forest loss trend does exist. Forests are efficient sinks for absorbing carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas. An incentive for protecting forests was recently created by providing forests with an economic value for their ecological role as carbon traps. For the past several years, New York Botanical Garden Board Member Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, among others, have advocated for a greater application of biological solutions to the challenge of holding the rise of atmospheric temperature below an additional two degrees Celsius; see, for example, this op-ed piece. Dr. Lovejoy wrote for The New York Times in 2013.

Carbon offsets involving forests can be a win-win-win situation–forests can be preserved for all their many ecological, economic, and cultural values; the hundreds of millions of people who live in or near forests can continue to rely upon them for their survival; and the effects of climate change can be slowed and reduced. The December 2015 Paris Conference on climate change (COP21) concluded with an accord on climate change, emphasizing a huge role for the world’s forests.

The Garden conducts research and conservation initiatives at many far flung forest sites such as Myanmar, and as nearby as the 50-acre old-growth Thain Family Forest on the Garden’s grounds, a showcase site for environmental education, research, and forest stewardship. Additional forest-centered science projects of the Garden are shown below.