Restoring New York City
Proposals for Improving Ecological and Human Health
Edited by Dr. James A. Danoff-Burg
Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology, Columbia University

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Central Park's North End - Manhattan, NYC

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Restoring the

Urban Ecosystem

of Central Park’s

North End


Janet Fang



Among its many functions, Central Park’s North End serves as an asylum for city-dwellers, a habitat for a plethora of wildlife species (fauna and flora), and an oasis for migratory aves. While entirely man-made, Central Park’s pre-design nonetheless has become a natural ecosystem. However, it is being increasingly threatened by the very urbanism that sustains it. The by-products of an enduring metropolis are noise pollution, light pollution, and the urban heat island effect, and the victims are those who have come to depend on the park’s resources. I have designed a restoration project that will control and hopefully reduce the ambient city-noise, disruptive light, and artificial warming within the North End. If successful, this project will bring benefits such as an increase in the potential for greater genetic diversity in song species, an increase in certain native plant populations, a decrease in the mortality of migratory birds, and a healthier ecosystem in the public space of Central Park.




The Restoration Site



History – According to the Central Park Conservancy, before it became “an urban wonder of the world,” Central Park was 843 acres of rocky, swampy, muddy terrain. This undeveloped land was purchased for approximately $5 million in the mid-19th Century by New York City’s commissioners, who saw the need for public green space. In 1858, Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux created the “Greensward Plan” to make this space into the first major park intended entirely for public use, trusting in nature’s ability to act as a haven against the drudgery of city life; this plan was part of a competition sponsored by city commissioners to design a new park. To Olmsted, Central Park “is of great importance as the first real Park made in this century – a democratic development of the highest significance.” Olmsted and Vaux will come to be known as the creation ecologists behind Central Park.

For decades, Central Park was used for the purposes it was created, but its heavy use also meant that it has succumbed to much degradation, including pollution, soil compaction, and erosion. By the end of the 19th Century, automobiles became a new stress upon the park, and by the early 20th Century, the park began to degrade out of negligence.


The first restoration project for Central Park took place in 1934. By then, Central Park was in near ruins and its “lawns, unseeded, were expanses of bare earth, decorated with scraggly patches of grass and weeds that became dust holes in dry weather and mud holes in wet.” But the positive results of this restoration project were was short-lived and the park continued to deteriorate well past the mid-20th Century. In 1980, the Central Park Conservancy was formed and a new master restoration plan was begun: “Rebuilding Central Park for the 1980s and Beyond.” Together with the city, the Conservancy signed a contract that would ensure the continuing maintenance of Central Park.


Background to the Restoration Site, At Present – The focus of this project is on the continuous water/stream system of the Pool, the Loch, and the Ravine in the North End of Central Park in Manhattan, New York (figure 2). The Pool lies just south of the park entrance at 103rd Street and Central Park West. From there, the Ravine (which includes the Loch) flows northeastward and terminates down a metal-grated hole in the ground between Huddlestone Arch and Lasker Pool/Rink, just south of 106th Street. 


Presently, the Pool (figure 1) is a two-acre body of water fed into by a 48-inch pipe hidden behind a boulder in its southwest corner. Water is brought from the Reservoir, which lies between 97th and 86th Streets and is the main source of water that keeps many of the water bodies within the park running. The grassy bank of the Pool is sparsely surrounded by willows, red maples, thickets, and shrubs, and aquatic plants line the water’s edge. As the Ravine flows out of the Pool, the scenery changes to a canopy of oaks, elms, and maple, until the environment becomes a deciduous forest of oak, hickory, maple, and ash (figure 4). The floor is covered with deadwood, herbaceous plants, and sometimes a thick layer of leaf litter. The Loch, which was originally designed to be a small lake, has since reverted to its pre-park stream form where the streamside thickets grow on islands of accumulated silt. The Ravine/Loch is the only stream valley in the park and is part of a 90-acre woodland named North Woods. The stream ends as it drains into the conduit underground, just downstream from Huddlestone Arch (figure 5).

Many vertebrate species inhabit this riparian woodland. This includes over 200 species of birds seen regularly throughout the park, including year-round birds and annual migrants, with families that span across the phylogenetic spectrum from Gaviidae (loons) to Fringillidae (finches), according to The Birds of Central Park. Central Park has become grounds for their breeding, nesting, and wintering, providing them with food and shelter resources in this isolated green space within New York City.





Current Problems



Because of its location, Central Park’s North End faces many problems, which includes water pollution, heavy foot-traffic, off-trail trampling, littering, and vandalism and other illegal activities. This restoration project will focus on three specific threats that are particularly troublesome to the wildlife species that depend on this space: noise pollution, light pollution, and the urban heat island effect.


Noise Pollution – While parts of the stream were deliberately dammed to create the sounds of cascades, any potentially pastoral intonations are nearly drowned out by the cacophony of cars (traffic, sirens, car alarms), helicopters and airplanes overhead, and people in general (amplified music, crowds). All this contributes to the ambient city noise.

The effects of noise pollution are numerous. It most poignantly threatens the biodiversity of song birds that inhabit the streamside thickets. Human-altered environments are changing the communication signals of wild bird species (Brumm & Todt, 2002), (Patricelli & Blickley, 2006), (Warren, 2006). Urban song birds sing at a higher frequency than their rural counterparts so that their songs stand out better against the city noise, which tends to be at lower frequency. New kinds of machinery that were not present in the evolution of song birds have created a new selection pressure on wildlife species that use acoustic signals to achieve reproductive success (Slabbekoorn & Peet, 2003). Two dominant environmental factors affecting signal efficiency for birdsong are sound transmission properties and the level of interference by ambient noise. Successful acoustic communication requires that sounds propagate through the environment between the sender and receiver; vocalizations that transmit effectively in the habitat in which they are used are favored by natural selection, through a process known as acoustic adaptation. This differential selection is expected to create two groups of species: those that can adapt their signals to the competing noise, and those that cannot. For those species in the latter group, anthropogenic noise affects breeding opportunities, forcing them to suffer from auditory masking, and ultimately contribute to a decline in species density and diversity (Wood & Yezerinac, 2006). Globally, this phenomenon of responding to anthropogenic changes in the acoustic environment by altering their songs, has been documented in great tits of Leiden, Netherlands (Slabbekoorn & Peet, 2003), which was also the inaugural study of urban birdsong, house finches in southern California (Fernández-Juricic, 2005), nightingales in Germany (Brumm, 2004), and song sparrows in Portland, Oregon (Wood & Yezerinac, 2006). Within Central Park’s North End, the affected species include song sparrows (Melospiza melodia) and nonnative birds, such as blackbirds (Family Icteridae), and European passerines like the house sparrow (Passer domesticus).


The mechanisms of acoustic adaptation have not been fully understood. For those song species that have managed to sustain themselves in the city, it’s hypothesized that either (1) random mutations in behavioral plasticity have allowed them to pass on their altered (and thus successful) songs to the male sons that they sire, or (2) some birds who possess a wide range of frequencies can tailor their songs to their environments (Slabbekoorn & Peet, 2003).


Male song birds have good reason to maintain clear song transmission because their reproductive success depends on it. Songs play a role in male-male conflicts, functioning to maintain territories and repel intruding males, and female mate choice in song birds is also heavily influenced by male song. The proximate pressures are intimately coupled with sexual selection. However, sexual selection is often contrary to natural selection (Darwin, 1874). Although higher-frequency songs may improve communication efficiency for song birds in noisy environments, this may come at a cost. In noisier locations, song birds may sing more loudly, which has been shown to increase rates of oxygen consumption and energy expenditure. The possible effects of vocal modifications in response to anthropogenic noise may actually decrease individual health (Wood and Yezerinac, 2006).


This then begins the divergence of song phenotypes between urban and rural metapopulations. Urban versus rural is certainly the central subdivision of species at the heart of this discussion. As previously inferred, should migration or dispersal occur between the city and countryside, there may not be any species recognition. Does Central Park (or Manhattan in general) have its own subspecies of song birds? The answer is most likely no, because there are no actual biological restrictions at play, just behavioral, although sometimes behavioral differences are enough to constitute a species or subspecies boundary. There are further subdivisions of song birds in New York. Since the city is not homogenously good, patchiness results, which in turn results in metapopulations within the city. So song birds have settled into the patches, and most likely, each patch is characterized by a different noise disturbance. It’s entirely possible that even the general phrase “higher frequency song” that has been used here can be further complicated into different degrees of high frequency because the sounds of urban noise is so varied. A species is the sum of all its metapopulations, and there needs to be multiple populations in attempts to secure the persistence of the species. So urban song birds on the whole will persist (especially because their year-round range spans across the United States), but some metapopulations acutely adapted for mating and territoriality in a specific location may not.


In the long-term, through magnifications in a biological chain of events, these specialized urban birds are only mating with other local city birds, ultimately reducing their genetic diversity and opening up opportunities for the deleterious effects of small or isolated populations. Evolutionary restoration ecology and population genetics must play a large role in the management of these song species.


Although the mechanisms of acoustic adaptation are undetermined, it’s not likely that these song species possess enormous behavioral plasticity and are then capable of changing the frequency at which they sing at will, after they’ve made an assessment of the frequency of the ambient noise. It’s far more likely that this sexual selection took generations, beginning with an individual that, by chance, sang at a higher frequency and was better heard by females and whose territory was better announced to competitor males; because selection is simply differential reproduction, this bird in this specific case has a better chance of mating success and was thus better equipped to pass on his genes, which, presumably, includes the tendency to sing a higher frequency song. This presupposes that singing at higher frequencies is a heritable trait, although, it is also likely that what is heritable is not so much the particular song or singing ability, but the behavior of teaching his male offspring this particularly high-frequency song.


According to Foundations of Restoration Ecology (2006), genetic variants that evolved within historically different evolutionary contexts may thus be pitted against novel and mismatched current conditions, and that the degree of this mismatch should then determine the pattern and strength of selection acting on trait variation in such populations. Contemporary evolution should occur whenever there is sufficient heritable variation for a trait under directional selection with selection favoring a shift in the mean trait value toward the optimum (highest net fitness value). This selection pressure for songs pitched at higher frequencies is a stunning example of contemporary evolution in the face of anthropogenic disturbances: the proliferation of a trait (singing at higher frequencies) in a population (Central Park song birds) through a stimulus (urban noise pollution).


Genetic diversity serves as the basis for adaptive evolution in all living organisms and that heritable differences among individuals influence how they interact with the physical environment and how they function within ecosystems. We already know that the extant Central Park song birds have taken advantage of their existing genetic diversity. That explains how they have been able to amplify their songs above the city’s white noise: there was a genetic variant for songs occurring at higher frequencies. However, if genetic diversity is the primary basis for adaptation to environmental uncertainty, the future of these Central Park song birds is in danger because they have become so specific to their isolated location. Generally, it is not entirely detrimental to become highly specialized relative to the ecosystem, but in the case of this urban ecosystem, the problems are numerous. Most poignantly, urban song birds are slowly losing, through strong selection pressures acting in the opposite direction, their ability to sing at the “normal” pitch. Rural females will not recognize the breeding songs of urban males, so these males are restricted to only urban females, correspondingly. These Central Park song species are not only living in isolated populations, but even if they were to come into contact with other populations, there is a good chance that there will be no species recognition.


Additionally, populations with individuals containing different genes for adaptation to new conditions are more likely to persist, but populations with a narrower range of genotypes (more phenotypically uniform) may fail to survive and reproduce as conditions become less locally favorable. So this introduces a timeliness element to this restoration project; noise pollution must be reduced before song species establish a unilateral runaway acoustic adaptation and have lost all genetic capabilities to sing at their normal frequencies.


And finally, noise pollution also makes Central Park less of the pastoral retreat for urbanites than it was originally designed to be.


Light PollutionThe unnatural glow of cities (which includes over-illumination, glare, clutter, and sky glow), resulting from automobiles, street lamps, and brightly-lit sky scrappers disrupt the natural light-dark cycles. This “ecological light pollution” (Longcore and Rich, 2004) affects the behaviors of wildlife by increasing the length of the photoperiod for plants and by creating extended pseudo-daylight hours for diurnal birds.


Animals can experience disorientation from additional illumination and are attracted to or

repulsed by glare, which affects foraging, reproduction, communication, and other critical behaviors (Longcore and Rich, 2004). Artificial light disrupts interspecific interactions evolved in natural patterns of light and dark. Birds rely on both internal and external mechanisms for reproduction and migration. As a result of light pollution, male birds may continue to expend energy singing their higher frequency songs past daylight hours. Migrating birds are extremely disoriented by city night-lights. Night-migrating birds are especially attracted to lighted areas; that, combined with windows, glass, and other reflective surfaces of brightly-lit tall buildings, are resulting in fatal collisions. These fatalities number in the hundred millions per year, in American cities alone.


Additionally, according to the Fatal Light Awareness Program (FLAP), once inside a beam of light, such as those projected by the light posts that line the major streets of Central Park, birds oftentimes do not want to leave the lit area to enter into the dark sky. So they will continuously flap around within the beam of light. Not only does this make them more visible to nocturnal predators, such as owls, this incessant flapping eventually ends when they drop to the ground out of exhaustion, making them further vulnerable to predators.


The unnatural light-dark cycles have affects on the physiological processes of plants as well, especially seed-germinating species and flowering plants.  Seasonal events are important in the life cycles of most photosynthetic plants. The environmental stimulus that most plants use to detect the time of year is the photoperiod, which is the relative length of night and day. Night length, and not day length, actually controls the physiological responses to photoperiod. If the nighttime part of the photoperiod is interrupted by light, or is cut short of the critical night length, many species will not flower (Campbell, 1999). Without flowering, there is no sexual reproduction, and these plants face a decline on account of their ecophysiological constraints.


Also facing decreased reproduction rates are plants that depend on nocturnal insect-pollinators. Nighttime light interferes with the ability of moths and other nocturnal insects to navigate (Longcore and Rich, 2004).


Urban Heat Island – This is defined as a metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its rural surroundings. Among its many causes are buildings that block the view to the colder night sky, the lack of evapotranspiration, the common use of surface materials with higher heat capacity and thermal conductivity, and CO2 emissions and land-use developments that contribute to fluxes in the natural carbon cycle. (The language of the urban heat island is similar to climate change and global warming.)


City birds are strongly affected by unnatural thermodynamics (Oke, 1982). Similar to the effects of light pollution, the artificial warming allows male birds to continue singing their costly songs even in the dark (figure 6). The urban heat island also causes birds to breed earlier and nest sooner. When not in breeding season, a song sparrow’s diet consists of weed and grass seeds and a few berries, in addition to insects. During breeding season, both parents feed the young a diet made up primarily of insect foods, such as beetles, flies, and caterpillars. But if the birds are not synchronized with the availability of resources, they are out of sync with food and nesting supplies, resulting in starved hatchlings, according to the National Wildlife Federation.


What results from the combination of light pollution and the urban heat island are modern generations of birds with stressful lifestyles. City birds sing at a more costly frequency and for longer periods of time. They mate during the night as well as the day, and across all seasons; this results in a shorter recovery time between each costly reproductive act. Ultimately, the stress of city-living will lower the immune responses of these birds and increase the incidence of disease.


Migratory birds on the Atlantic Flyway travel long distances via migration corridors from their breeding grounds in North America to their wintering grounds in the neotropics. Like local birds, the alteration of environmental factors leads to increased stress, which causes decreased natural immunity and increased susceptibility to disease. Their migration corridors are plagued by habitat loss and fragmentation, radio towers and tall buildings, and even disease (Aguirre, 2006).


Plants are affected as well, inevitably, because of their ecophysiological constraints. The increased nighttime temperatures are increasing respiration among plants, which ultimately result in increased CO2 (greenhouse gas) concentrations. Affecting the natural carbon balance in this way results in a positive feedback loop. Increased CO2 concentrations will tend to increase photosynthesis (which decreases CO2), but since nighttime is for respiration (which generates more CO2), the warmer nights are allowing plants to respire more. And increases in CO2 concentrations are making the atmosphere reradiate more radiation back to earth’s surface, resulting in a net warming urban island effect. A complementary positive feedback loop is how as it gets warmer, more people turn on air conditioners, which increase energy usage, which in turn contributes to thermal air pollution.


Some plants such as cottonwood have increased growth rates (Gregg et al., 2003), while others are flowering/budding earlier (Neil & Wu, 2006). As in the case with birds, if different species within the same habitat do not respond to artificial temperature changes in the same way, the loss of synchrony will break the vital links among interdependent species.


This loss of synchrony that results from the urban heat island has severe repercussions for community and food-web ecology. The web of relationships has very intricately coevolved between predator and prey. In this case, it is not a matter of removing a consumer or a terminal predator to influence bottom up or top down trophic levels; here, it is a matter of mismatching the carefully timed physiological processes within co-dependent species.




The Restoration Plan, including Benefits, Timeline, & Budget



Noise Pollution – Acoustic adaptation gives song birds greater mating success (which leads to increased population density), but they also make them so specialized for mating purposes locally that they are not recognizable outside of their urban metapopulation (which leads a decreased genetic diversity). Such behavior-affected reproductive isolation isolates these city song birds, resulting in a type of undesirable subspeciation, and a reduction in diversity. The results of this threat are not immediately obvious, and since these birds are so common across the country, they have a conservation status of “least concern.” However, preserving genetic diversity of our city’s song birds through noise suppression will also provide services to New Yorkers as well. Central Park was deliberately designed by Olmsted and Vaux to provide a type of retreat from the foreseeable urban chaos. If the park within is as noisy as the park without, Central Park would have failed in its lofty design.


To suggest any large-scale change to Central Park is far too ambitious, so a gradual approach will work well for both wildlife and humans alike. This gives the song birds time to gradually readapt to more “normal” noise conditions. There is certainly a very small chance of rerouting airways overhead or subways routes that cut the corners of the park, so I plan to gradually reroute automobile traffic within and around the park; in order to control the low-frequency noise pollution of Central Park and gradually have the selection pressures directed towards the “normal” pitch of bird calls, automobile traffic must be managed.


Phase ½: The riparian woodland alongside the Pool, the Loch, and the Ravine will need to be made denser (figure 7). This will be a natural way of suppressing noise. I will plant more of the exact same species of trees as those already present, such as red maple and hickory. This phase will take many years to become effective in suppressing noise, but the plantings of saplings and slightly more mature trees will take place in six months. $10,000 will be allotted to the purchase of these trees and required materials, and the labor of planting will be kept at a minimum by utilizing the helpfulness of New York Park Restoration volunteers.

Phase I: Since the Ravine/Loch flows directly under Glen Span and Huddlestone Arches (figure 3), this area is most poignantly affected by noise-related stresses. I plan to gradually close down one of these two park drives. I have selected to keep Central Park Drive, the street through Huddlestone Arch, because its proximity to Lasker Rink/Pool already has it suffering from noise pollution. Park Drive S, the street that runs through Glen Span will be closed in order to maximize the reduction of noise in the western half of the North End. This will be accomplished over the course of one year. For the first four months, the street will be closed during off-peak hours, and then during the following eight months, the time slot where cars are allowed will be gradually scaled down until it is feasible to completely close off Park Drive S to all cars and trucks. The budget for this phase will be $50,000 for signs, public announcements, and the hiring of a crew to guide and redirect cars during the gradual close-down period.


Phase II: (The implementation of this phase is entirely contingent on the acceptance and actual feasibility of Phase I. After the first year, adaptive management must be called upon to readjust this phase as necessary.) The Loch and the Ravine are not located directly adjacent to any of the four major transverse roads; in fact, they lie nearly at the midpoint between Central Park North and 96th Street. Thus I plan to eliminate the auto-use of the transverse road of 96th Street.


Since the 86th Street cross-park road is the “mid-latitude” road, I would keep that one, so as to not too terribly inconvenience east-west commuters. Also, 86th Street runs through the less “natural” areas of the park anyways: the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Police Precinct, and three playgrounds. However, since this road may have to be widened to accommodate all the redirected traffic, this comes as a sacrifice to the ecosystems south of the Reservoir and north of the Great Lawn, which will have increases in noise, auto-pollution, and overall disturbance; this includes the Arthur Ross Pinetum. For that reason, 79th Street will remain as well, since it is near Belvedere Castle, Swedish Cottage Marionette Theatre, and playgrounds.


Similar to Phase I, this phase will also take place over the course of one year, beginning with the gradual closure of 96th Street through the park, the rerouting of cross-town buses to 86th or 79th Streets, and the widening of 86th Street to accommodate its inevitable increase of use. The budget for this phase will be approximately $3 million.

Phase III: (The execution of this phase is entirely subject to the completion of Phase I and II.) The auto traffic that circumnavigate the park (such as Fifth Avenue and Central Park North, South, and West – especially Central Park North, because that borders the Loch and the Ravine) will be reduced. This will be made feasible by redirecting usage to, and widening, parallel streets farther from the park (such as Columbus, Madison, 57th, and 110th). In doing so, I will temporarily be increasing noise pollution because of construction; I would like to start this restoration at a time when breeding is at a minimum so that the loudest sounds will be past by the time their official breeding season begins. So the timeline for this visionary phase will also be one year. During peak-breeding season, traffic will be gradually redirected to parallel streets farther from the park, and during off-peak breeding season, construction will begin and end. With the rerouting of transverse streets within the park and the streets that are parallel to the streets that circumnavigate the park, I will not only be managing noise pollution, but auto-generated disturbances as well.


The budget for this phase will be the greatest because of the sped-up timeline and the anticipated opposition. There will need to be funding specifically directed at the mitigation of these objections; this will include campaigns to educate the public on the importance of preserving genetic diversity and even the benefits of alternative energy and commuting methods. The budget will be $8 million, for the materials and human-hours of de/re-construction of streets during one winter season.


Light Pollution – By decreasing light pollution, we can save the biodiversity-ecosystem function of pollination by nocturnal insects. This then also helps with plant biomass production, which further serves as suitable habitats for invertebrate and vertebrate species.


This is not only a problem for birds and plants; it is a problem for people as well. Light trespass is a general irritant for residents and especially for amateur astronomers. Glare, in particular, is an issue in road safety, as bright and badly shielded lights around roads may partially blind drivers (especially those with high astigmatism) or pedestrians unexpectedly, and contribute to accidents; this has even been termed “Disability Glare.” So the benefits to residents and drivers make this an even more relevant restoration concern.


Since the light posts have already been eradicated along the Ravine throughout the woodland area, light pollution is only a major problem for the local birds and plants along the Pool and around Central Park. Those lights will be taken out and replaced with (1) low pressure sodium lights, which have an easy-to-filter single wavelength, that are (2) encased in “full cutoff” fixtures, which reduce sky glow by preventing light from escaping unnecessarily. Although these lights and light fixtures will cost money to purchase, they are both more energy-efficient so the city will actually be saving money ultimately.


Each light will be equipped with a motion sensor that is keyed to higher magnitude ground movement, so that light will only come on when there is a jogger/runner or someone walking through the park at nighttime, for security reasons. The budget for this will be $20,000.



Urban Heat Island – As I previously mentioned, the urban heat island uses the same language as the far more politically-charged global warming; so in that sense, this project must take into account climate change’s implications for urban restoration. Reducing the effects of the urban heat island is a benefit for all the species in an urban ecosystem, including its human residents. Rising CO2 levels from emissions, land-use policies, and cement production are already contributing to a worldwide enhanced greenhouse effect, so it is definitely not advantageous to further increase CO2 levels on the microscale by forcing plants to respire more at nighttime.


Much of the urban heat island effect is a result of cities lacking evapotranspiration, which is the combination of evaporation and transpiration of water into the atmosphere from living plants and soil. However, since Central Park has a sufficient amount of vegetation and standing water, it is cooler than its surround environ because of its relatively more abundant encouragement of evapotranspiration.


Much of the surface materials of Central Park North End are still absorbing solar radiation instead of reflecting it. So the surface thermal properties must be managed by replacing black asphalt with albedo-enhancing white concrete. This is a very disruptive process, so it will also take place during the winter off-peak breeding season, along with the widening of transverse and circum-park streets. The budget for this will be $5 million, which includes materials, equipment, and enough human-power to accomplish this task within the given time frame.







Future considerations – After the restoration project has been implemented, we should have a self-sustaining ecosystem. In order to test for the effectiveness of this restoration project, post-mortem, I will apply elements of the Before-After–Control-Impact Studies.


·   Noise Pollution – Phylogenetic studies of the song sparrow (our test species) will be conducted to determine whether the narrowing diversity has been alleviated and whether genetic introductions of rural song sparrows can contribute to the city’s gene pool.


·   Light Pollution and Urban Heat Island – Plant productivity and CO2 levels will be measured and correlated to the changes in temperature and light exposure. With healthier ecosystems, we can expect quality food and resources for nesting, breeding, and migratory birds; migrant species of the Atlantic Flyaway will be surveyed, and compared across a long-term reassessment study.


Song birds that have conservation statuses of “least concern” and widespread plants that grow throughout the city may not immediately incite the empathy of conservationists, especially when their conservation depends upon a large-scale, multi-million restoration project might, initially, negatively affect Central Park’s visitors and NYC commuters. And worse yet, the ecosystem functions are not immediately obvious as well. While the song birds are becoming less genetically diverse intraspecifically, their populations are not necessarily declining, nor is there a decline in animal biomass production (even though the life span of an individual song bird has been shortened, their reproduction rates have not suffered a net decrease). And since there certainly is redundancy among the song birds of Central Park, even if there is a decline of one seed-pollinating song species, there will be others to replace it. But when considering the ecosystem functions that benefit wildlife species, we must also considering ecosystem services that benefit us, those that will be designing, implementing, and funding restoration projects. As I have shown, residents and visitors to New York City can benefit from noise reduction, unwanted glares and glows, and a reduction of a city-scale anthropogenic warming. And that makes Central Park worth restoring.  







·   Alonso Aguirre (2006) “Disease Ecology and Migratory Species,” lecture given.

·   Henrik Brumm and Dietmar Todt (2002) “Noise-dependent song amplitude regulation in a territorial songbird” Animal Behaviour 63:891-897.

·   Henrik Brumm (2004). “Causes and consequences of song amplitude adjustment in a territorial bird: A case study in Nightingales” Anais da Academia Brasileira de Ciências 76:289–295.

·   Neil A. Campbell, Jane B. Reece, Lawrence G. Mitchell ed. (1999) Biology 5th Edition.

·   Charles Darwin (1874) “The Descent of Man.”

·   Esteban Fernández-Juricic et al. (2005) “Microhabitat Selection and Singing Behavior Patterns of Male House Finches (Carpodacus mexicanus) in Urban Parks in a Heavily Urbanized Landscape in the Western U.S.” Urban Habitats 3:49-69.

·   Jillian W. Gregg, Clive G. Jones, Todd E. Dawson (2003) “Urbanization effects on tree growth in the vicinity of New York City” Nature 424:183-187.

·   Travis Longcore and Catherine Rich (2004) “Ecological light pollution” Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 2:191–198.

·   Kaesha Neil and Jianguo Wu (2006) “Effects of urbanization on plant flowering phenologyUrban Ecosystems 9: 243-257.

·   T. R. Oke (1982) “The energetic basis of the urban heat island” Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society 108:1–24.

·   Gail L. Patricelli and Jessica L. Blickley (2006) “Avian communication in urban noise: causes and consequences of vocal adjustment” The Auk 123:639–649.

·   Hans Slabbekoorn and Margriet Peet (2003) “Birds sing at a higher pitch in urban noise” Nature 424:267.

·   Laura Tangley (2005) “Out of Sync” National Wildlife April/May 2005.

·   Paige S. Warren et al. (2006) “Urban bioacoustics: it’s not just noise” Animal Behaviour 71:491-502.

·   William E. Wood and Stephen M. Yezerinac (2006) “Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) song varies with urban noise” The Auk 123:650–659.



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Last Updated by James Danoff-Burg, 20 Dec 06