New York’s Central Park Becomes a Living Climate Laboratory

Scientists will study how rising temperatures affect trees, plants, wildlife, and humans who use the park.

Central Park means a lot of things to New Yorkers: playground, meeting place, natural oasis, arts venue, and movie set, to name just a few. Soon it will gain another title: living laboratory — specifically a research site to study how climate change affects urban parks.

Under a collaboration between the Yale School of the Environment and two New York City-based nonprofits, researchers will monitor, map and analyze changing climate conditions in the 843-acre park to understand better how warming affects trees, plants, wildlife, and the tens of thousands of humans who use it every day.

“There are lots of individual studies on parks, and climate change, including about how much CO2 trees absorb from the atmosphere and how much urban heat island effect is mitigated by tree canopy. What we want to do is study Central Park as an ecosystem, as a coupled human-natural system, and we’re looking at it top-down and bottom-up — from soils to satellites,” said Karen Seto, a professor of geography and urbanization science at Yale, who will direct the lab program.

While climate impacts across New York are determined by numerous factors — including air pollution, heat island effect, and extreme precipitation events — climate warming’s cumulative impact on large urban parks has not been studied in detail.

Source: Scientific American

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