Current Activities

CIRCE interest in Meteorology and Climate
One major focus of the Institute must be the city’s interaction with climate, as climatic change will alter many aspects of New York’s nature, and the city itself alters local climate. Atmosphere-biosphere interactions need to be considered. The impacts on ecosystems of climate drivers, the physical structure of the city, increased population (energy use) and climate change, should be a core element for the study of New York’s nature. We cannot divorce New York’s ecosystems from the atmosphere and meteorology, so the Institute should include atmosphere-ecosystem interactions as a core element of study. New York City has unique features that interact with climate. The Institute will take advantage of the real-time Urban Atmospheric Observatory (UAO) currently being assembled in Manhattan. This will be a dense array of meteorological instrumentation, remote sensing and satellite products and model output, as well as radiation detection and aerosol measurements, focused on a small area in the heart of Manhattan. A permanent installation of scientific quality instrumentation, the UAO will provide real-time information for on-line modeling of atmosphere-ecosystem interactions and shed light on the growth of urban forests, green roofs, and atmospheric deposition.

CIRCE Interest in the Aquasphere
Another focus of the Institute must be the second leg of the biota triad, the aquasphere. Sea waters, estuaries, and fresh waters are vital components of the environment and ecosystems of the New York City region. All have experienced profound historical changes in only four centuries as they passed from nearly pristine states, to ones that were ravaged by contamination, sewage, and wonton habitat destruction, to today’s conditions-- which are delicately perched on the right side of recovery, but which could easily slide backwards. The health of these habitats are exemplified by the reappearances and increases in abundances of a host of native organisms, most notably, osprey, herons and egrets, seals, striped bass, sturgeon, and even oysters in some places---higher level and charismatic creatures that serve as environmental indicators in their integration of habitat quality and quantity.

This renewed vigor and the new ecological functionalities that have emerged in these compromised systems must be encouraged. Momentum can be sustained by working to better understand the remaining stresses to these systems and the patterns and processes of recovery, and to promote a stronger stewardship of these natural resources.
Among possible areas of focus within the aquasphere for the new institute are:

• Urban coastal habitat assessment and restoration to better manage waterfront development in urban bulkheaded environments.
• A better understanding of the rapid loss of coastal wetlands and strategies for reversing them.
• Proactive restoration of oyster reefs, a keystone species for New York Harbor.
• Remediation of water quality in the cul-de-sacs of New York Harbor that lag the improvements in water quality seen elsewhere in the system.
• Assessment and improvement of both water and habitat quality in the fresh waters of the New York City region.

CIRCE Interest in Terrestrial Ecosystems
The Institute should also study the land, working to nurture natural areas of New York City to enhance the quality of life for New Yorkers while also fostering environmental sustainability. It will work for the expansion of green land areas, preservation of wetlands, improvement of water quality, protection of other urban wildlife habitats, and the restoration of brownfields and other former industrial sites. Particular goals will include enhancement of biodiversity, control of invasive and disruptive exotic species, protection of wetlands and promotion of the educational and scientific uses of natural areas in and around New York. Recognizing that New York’s natural areas are in a state of managed disequilibrium, the Institute will develop a long-term integrative view of the urban environment that accommodates societal needs and evolution of urban ecosystems to counterbalance the continual short-term economic interests pressuring natural areas

 

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Thomas Strekas, Acting Director,
Queens College The City University of New York 65-30 Kissena Boulevard Flushing, New York 11367
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