The Van Cortlandt Park Alliance is conducting several ongoing research projects in the natural areas of Van Cortlandt Park to better understand the Water chemistry, Geochemistry and Biological diversity of the Park along with the impact of our habitat restoration projects.
Current research projects:
Water Quality Monitoring of Tibbetts Brook
Tibbetts Brook is one of the last above ground streams left in NYC due to development. Since December of 2015, in association with Manhattan College’s Civil & Environmental Engineering Department (MC CEE), we have been monitoring the water chemistry of Tibbetts Brook and the associated Van Cortlandt Lake in order to better understand human impacts, dynamics in nutrient concentration and sampling strategy on the aquatic system. This effort has recently led to publication coauthored by VCPA staff and MC CEE in the Journal of Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. If you are interested in joining our Water Monitoring Crew please contact Alex Byrne at firstname.lastname@example.org or 718-601-1553.
The diversity and distribution of most of the organisms associated with freshwater in urban habitats are largely unknown, such as here in NYC (McIntyre 2000). The Alliance with the help of volunteers and school groups, are working to gain a better understanding of the invertebrate community living in Tibbetts Brook and Van Cortlandt Lake. We are using an array of modeling techniques to understand the connection between water quality and aquatic biodiversity to help prioritize restoration efforts within Tibbetts Brook. Here’s a current list of benthic macroinvertebrates VCPA has identified in Tibbetts Brook and Van Cortlandt Lake. (link to BMI doc)
Natural Areas Arthropod Biodiversity of VCP
The Alliance in collaboration with multiple college interns and associate entomologists from the American Museum of Natural History is working on a largescale assessment of arthropods (Ants, Bees, Wasps, Beetles and Spiders) to characterize community structure and to generate a park wide understanding of arthropod community ecology. We have collected thousands of specimens from 60 locations within the park and are currently creating the first data base of its kind for VCP. The data we collect will be used to understand how arthropods respond to changes in habitat structure which includes soil chemistry, plant diversity, coarse woody debris, the removal of non-native invasive plants and how they reassemble themselves as the habitat recovers from management.
Soil geochemistry of VCP natural areas
In collaboration with Dr. Yuri Gorokovich of Lehman College and computer scientist Nicholas Ericksen, Alliance staff are currently analyzing a suite of 18 elements at 60 locations within the park with the use of X-Ray Fluorescence. By quantifying elemental composition of VCP soils we hope to generate a high-resolution picture of Van Cortlandt Geochemistry that will aid in the restoration of VCP natural areas. Thus far we have sampled from the Northwest Forest, Vault Hill, Croton Woods and the Tibbetts Brook Flood Plain and have already identified areas of the park in need of soil restoration.
Ecological filtration of urban freshwater ecosystems
Working with Manhattan College students and Dr. Jessica Wilson of the Environmental Engineering Department of Manhattan College we are seeking to experiment with different modes of freshwater filtration, focusing on the use of organisms and ecological principles as the mechanism for filtration. First experiments used mesocosms and freshwater mussels and tested for the filtration of both phosphorus and suspended solids. Future work is looking to both couple freshwater mussels with plants and compare the efficiency of different organisms in filtration capacity. Click here for a powerpoint covering our work on this project.
Knotweed Reduction Study
Our study, which will launch in early 2020, will help determine the best methods to
reduce knotweed and the negative impacts it has on our natural areas. Our study will test the potential of adding solarization, to the multiple tactics currently utilized, as a method to knotweed control. Solarization is passive and thus very low-cost option. If our study shows that this method is effective, this could potentially shift the balance into the court of the managers.